Andy Warhol’s First New York Studio Hits the Real Estate Market


Warhol's first studio is up for sale

Andy Warhol’s first New York City studio building is up for sale. The real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield is asking $9.975 million for the 5,000-square-foot former firehouse where Warhol created many of his seminal works from the early 1960s, including his “Disaster” paintings.

Before discovering the building at 159 East 87th Street in 1962, Warhol had been working out of the townhouse where he lived with his mother, a few blocks away on 89th Street. But after three years there, canvases had begun to fill the ground floor apartment, while Brillo boxes and Campbell’s soup cans were stacked to the ceilings.

So when a friend told him about a vacant space in the nearby firehouse, where a hook and ladder company held a lease, Warhol wrote a letter to the city, offering to pay $100 a year. (The building had no heat or running water.)

It was at this point in Warhol’s career that he decided he didn’t need to be fabricating his own work anymore. “I think somebody should be able to do all my paintings for me,” he told the art critic G.R. Swenson in 1963. That June, he hired an assistant, Gerard Malanga, to work with him at the new studio.

“I remember when Kennedy was shot,” Malanga told New York magazine in 1987. “We went back to the firehouse and made a silk screen of Dracula biting a girl’s neck.” By that time Warhol had reached the height of his fascination with death and disaster. It began for him when he saw the front page of the New York Mirror with an image of a felled plane and a screaming black headline: “129 DIE IN JET!”

He realized that “when you see a gruesome picture over and over again, it doesn’t really have any effect,” Warhol told Swenson. He began to sense then that all the sensationalized images he had been reproducing, of Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor, were deadened, too, in their own ways.

At the same time that Warhol moved his studio into the firehouse, he was also scouting locations in midtown to establish the first iteration of The Factory. He settled on a crumbling former hat manufacturer on East 47th Street. “Andy was attracted to the space because it didn’t appear to be your typical artist’s studio, with wood floors and big windows looking out on a grand urban vista,” Malanga recalled. “It didn’t have that artsy aura. It had, more or less, an anonymous feel to it. You walked into it and you weren’t quite sure what it was or what had gone on there previous.” Warhol covered the walls with silver foil and opened up in January 1964.

So far, Warhol’s former firehouse studio building has managed to stay within art-world hands. Property Shark lists the current owner as Guy Wildenstein’s art dealership Wildenstein & Co. The real estate firm is now marketing the space as “a blank canvas to create boutique condominiums, mixed use rental, luxury townhouse, or community facility/medical use.” If it’s any indication of the market value for the actual building, the old lease for the property, signed by Warhol, sold at Sotheby’s in 2014 for $13,750.


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I Love Warhol

I Love Warhol