Rocker Alice Cooper finds precious Warhol work in storage

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Singer/Songwriter Alice Cooper performs during Music Biz 2017 - Industry Jam 2.
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Singer/Songwriter Alice Cooper performs during Music Biz 2017 - Industry Jam 2.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (AFP) - After a long career shocking audiences, even Alice Cooper has surprises. The glam rocker has discovered an Andy Warhol work that had been rolled up in storage for decades.

The red silkscreen piece, easily worth millions of dollars, adapts a printed image of an electric chair as part of the pop artist's Death And Disaster phase in the 1960s.

Cooper, who befriended Warhol while living in New York, received Little Electric Chair as a gift but had not seen it since 1972 or 1973, the singer's long-time manager Shep Gordon told AFP.

"Only in rock 'n' roll can you not remember you have a Warho,!" Gordon said with a laugh.

Cooper - the pioneer of shock rock who puts on elaborate, macabre shows - was a heavy drinker in the 1970s, but Gordon said it was understandable he would forget about the artwork.

"It was a very different time. Andy wasn't dead, his pictures weren't valuable and Alice was headlining Madison Square Garden and tickets were US$3.50 (S$4.77)," he said.

Gordon said he recalled the piece several years ago at a dinner with an art dealer friend who mentioned the high price that a Warhol had fetched.

Cooper hunted and found Little Electric Chair, still rolled up, in a storage unit alongside old equipment.

Gordon said the 69-year-old Cooper, who actively tours and whose latest album comes out on Friday, has not decided what to do with Little Electric Chair other than to have it properly framed.

FIXATION ON ELECTRIC CHAIR

Warhol made a series of Little Electric Chair pieces, including one that auction house Christie's sold in 2014 for more than US$10 million. Others are in collections of the Tate Modern in London and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Cooper had been given the work as a birthday gift from then girlfriend Cindy Lang, who was part of the New York underground rock scene alongside Warhol, who famously worked with The Velvet Underground.

Gordon said Warhol became fixated on the electric chair as he remained disturbed by the 1953 executions of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were convicted of spying for the Soviet Union.

Cooper in his early years would die in a mock execution at each show - by hanging, electric chair and later the guillotine.

"It wasn't a conscious tie-in, but artistically, it was sort of the same statement," Gordon said of the two artists' use of the jarring image of the electric chair.

"If you stop any frame on the Alice Cooper show, it sort of looks like a Salvador Dali painting. It's lots of abstract images - and a juxtaposition of things that shouldn't be in that place."