Published: December 12, 2017
Review and Photos by Rick Russack, Catalog Photos Courtesy John McInnis Auctioneers
AMESBURY, MASS. – On December 1-2, John McInnis sold the estate of Harriet Gould, a lifetime resident of Amesbury who was a collector of many things and the mother of Jon Gould. Jon Gould was a vice president of Paramount Pictures and active in the social worlds of Hollywood and New York. He had been in a relationship with Andy Warhol for five years before his death from AIDS in 1986 at the age of 33. Warhol’s love for Gould was evident in the items in Gould’s possession. At the time of Gould’s death, his mother packed the contents of his Los Angeles and New York homes and stored them in her attic in Amesbury. This collection of material accompanied the contents of Harriet Gould’s home, which also included Americana.
The existence of this trove of Warhol material was unknown before the auction, and the sale was planned to tell the story of the complex love affair between the two men. Many of the items were gifts from Warhol, many were inscribed from Warhol to Gould and some were gifts from other friends of Gould. There were also many private photographs taken by Warhol. McInnis promoted the sale well; Dan Meader, gallery director, was on NPR twice and was interviewed by the New York Times, The Boston Globe and local newspapers. Printed certificates of authenticity were given to buyers of each object.
The item that was expected to be the star of the sale, an intentionally distorted stretched canvas sculpted by Warhol for Gould and so inscribed on the back, did not sell. Forty-eight hours before the sale, McInnis was contacted by an attorney representing one of the heirs, insisting that there be reserves on several items in the sale. This was contrary to the original understanding with the family, that all items would be sold without reserves, but McInnis had to agree. Also not selling for the same reason, were two of the five items that had been given to Gould by Jean-Michel Basquiat, a friend of both Warhol and Gould.
The presentation of the Warhol-Gould material was masterful. Meader, who spent six months researching the material, located Gould family photographs showing Warhol and Gould with many of the objects in the sale, and those photographs were displayed along with the objects. Warhol often mentioned the circumstances surrounding some of the items in his diary, Meader presented diary excerpts along with the relevant items. Before the sale, Meader said, “Jon and Andy’s relationship was a complex one, and, by all accounts, Andy was infatuated and in love with Jon. Here for the first time, we see some of the other side of the relationship. This love for Jon was a new challenge for Andy and he showered Jon with gifts, as he never had done before. He acted much differently and presented Jon with numerous personal expressions and art.” Included in the display in the gallery were copies of poems Warhol had written for Gould.
One excerpt from the diary talks directly of Warhol’s early attraction to Gould. On April 16, 1981, Warhol says, “And then I decided I should try to fall in love and that’s what I’m going to do now with Jon Gould…Jon is a good person to fall in love with because he has his own career and I can develop movie ideas with him. So maybe my crush on him will be good for business. I cooked Jon Easter dinner. He was a little late. I gave a tour of the whole house to impress him and was hinting like crazy that it could all be his….” Warhol was also a frequent guest at Gould’s home in Amesbury and residents tell of seeing him around town; several of the photographs in this auction were taken in Amesbury.
Bringing $42,000, the top price of the sale, was a rare synthetic polymer and silkscreen ink on aluminum sheeting sculpture by Warhol. It copied an October 1983 front page from the headlined “Marine Death Toll Hits 172,” and was signed “Jon / Andy Warhol ’83.” The aluminum sheet was crumpled up, giving it the appearance of a discarded newspaper. Meader said that it was the first of the Warhol items he found when going through the contents of the house. “I almost missed it. At first it just looked like crumpled up newspaper, but when I looked at it, and saw the signature, it was a real jolt. I realized what I was holding, and then continued to look.” According to Meader, only three examples of this technique are known and only one other is crinkled, as this one is. The fact that Warhol had “crumpled it up” when giving it to Gould may have been an indication of the state of their relationship at that moment.
Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) was part of the social world of Warhol and Gould, and also gave Gould gifts. A Stelton thermos bottle, with abstract painting and the word “Jon” and initialed “JB,” sold for $8,400. As mentioned above, two others of Basquiat’s gifts did not sell. A photograph of Basquiat and Jon Gould, unsigned but presumably by Warhol, realized $1,440. There were several other Warhol photographs of Gould, sometimes accompanied by a garment that Gould was wearing in the photograph. One such photo was titled “Jon Gould sitting Near Bridge,” and accompanied by a pair of gloves shown in the photograph. The photo and the gloves sold for $330.
As mentioned, the sale also included items that Harriet Gould had collected over the years. An early stepback pewter cupboard with traces of red paint reached $8,100. An early child-sized fall-front desk on bracket feet in old red but with two replaced feet earned $3,900. Harriet Gould was related to Nathaniel Currier of Currier and Ives and owned a set of four prints of the “American Country Life” series. They had hung for nearly 30 years in the Gould Insurance Agency in Amesbury. The set performed reasonably, finishing at $6,000.
After the sale, McInnis said that despite the legal issues, the sale had been a success. “I wish that we didn’t have to deal with the last-minute changes that required us to place reserves on certain items. But it’s part of our business and it’s human nature. Harriet Gould had been a friend and client of ours for years and we were glad to handle her estate. We did well for the family. And were able to add a chapter to the Andy Warhol – Jon Gould story, showing the feelings the two men had for each other, which many people did not know about.”
John McInnis Auctioneers is at 76 Main Street. For additional information, 800-822-1417 or www.mcinnisauctions.com.
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