An unknown buyer has acquired Andy Warhol’s Eight Elvises in a private sale, for a record $100 million. It sends Warhol straight into the top 10 list of the most expensive artists of all time. An auction price of $43.8m for his 200 One Dollar Bills in New York earlier this month confirms Warhol as the marquee name in the art market. The
unusual thing about this Warhol, however, is that it is unique. Unlike the artist’s other screen prints, which were run off, sometimes in hundreds of editions, he only made one of the work he called Eight Elvises.
Although the sale of Eight Elvises was completed last year, details have only just emerged after a year-long investigation by the art writer Sarah Thornton, who published her findings in this week’s Economist.
The picture, a 12ft canvas, has not been seen in public since it was exhibited in Los Angeles in 1963 as part of a much larger, 37ft canvas with 16 Elvises on it. When that massive work was dismantled, Eight Elvises went back to being one distinct piece. In the late 1960s, the work was sold to Annibale Berlingieri, an Italian collector. Since 2002, he has consistently been one of the three most bought and sold artists. At the height of the art market boom, in 2007, auction sales of his work totaled $428m, the highest turnover of any artist.
Although there is no doubt about the sale, the buyer remains a mystery. There are, however, only a few individuals who would be able to afford such a work.