It was 1977, and Andy Warhol was at work on his “Athletes” collection, portraits of high sports activities personalities who, he felt, have been gaining cultural prominence identical to “the film stars of yesterday.” One in every of them was then the star working again of the Buffalo Payments: O.J. Simpson.
Simpson, then 30, confirmed up and not using a soccer or a jersey, and Warhol needed to scramble to discover a ball. That Polaroid shoot led to 11 silkscreen portraits; certainly one of them is now happening public sale for the primary time.
Signed by each males, the portrait is billed by the public sale home as a piece that brings collectively two of essentially the most recognizable names of the twentieth century and captures “a trajectory of superstar and tragedy.”
“Warhol actually may by no means have imagined how in another way the picture would come to be considered, nor the controversy that also lingers round its topic in the present day,” mentioned Robert Manley, co-head of twentieth century and up to date artwork on the Phillips public sale home, which is auctioning the work Could 16.
It was virtually 20 years after Warhol’s picture shoot, in 1995, that Simpson — who had retired from the NFL in 1979 and pursued an appearing profession — was acquitted of the double slayings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her buddy Ronald Goldman. He was later discovered chargeable for the deaths by a California civil court docket jury that ordered him to pay $33.5 million to victims’ households.
In a separate case greater than a decade later, Simpson was convicted by a jury in Las Vegas for main 5 males, together with two with weapons, in a 2007 confrontation with two sports activities collectibles sellers in a cramped room at an off-strip Las Vegas on line casino resort. Simpson served 9 years in a Nevada jail for armed theft. He was discharged from parole in December 2021.
Manley famous that 5 many years after Warhol made it, the portrait nonetheless evokes a robust response.
“Those that view the picture of Simpson staring straight down the digital camera are more likely to recall the opposite infamous image of the superstar — his mugshot,” Manley mentioned. “Juxtaposing these two pictures, created at such completely different factors in Simpson’s life, exhibits a captivating trajectory of superstar and tragedy.”
Commissioned as a part of the broader “Athletes” collection that included Muhammad Ali, soccer star Pelé, tennis star Chris Evert, golf’s Jack Nicklaus and determine skater Dorothy Hamill, amongst others, by Warhol buddy and collector Richard Weisman, this specific portrait spent 19 years on the Professional Soccer Corridor of Fame in Canton, Ohio, the place it was donated in 1992 and, in response to a spokesperson there, by no means displayed.
In 2011, it was deaccessioned — or completely faraway from the gathering — and bought to an nameless collector in a personal sale via Christie’s, with proceeds going to fund preservation of different gadgets within the corridor’s assortment, mentioned corridor spokesperson Wealthy Desrosiers. Phillips estimates the portrait will promote within the $300,000 to $500,000 vary. As with every of the athletes within the collection, Simpson wouldn’t have current rights to proceeds, the public sale home mentioned.
The very best value achieved at public sale for certainly one of Warhol’s Simpson portraits was $687,000, bought in 2019.
Warhol photographed Simpson in Buffalo on Oct. 19, 1977. In keeping with the public sale catalog, a quote from Warhol’s diary that day reads, “He had a five-day beard and I believed the images can be terrible.” Warhol died in 1987 at age 58.
The work can be on public show Could 6-15 in New York earlier than being auctioned.