Polaroid Pictures of Montauk, New York, Taken by Andy Warhol: Know Before You Bid

James Ardis
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In 1971, real estate agent Tina Fredericks was tasked with finding Andy Warhol a new property. Fredericks recalls in a New York Times article how Warhol mostly messed around with his Polaroid camera in the car, bored by the mansions of East Hampton. But his attitude changed after reaching Montauk, a village on the east end of Long Island that, at the time, was kitsch enough to capture Warhol’s interest. 

He bought a seven-bedroom estate with four guest cottages above Montauk’s cliffs that was built in the 1920s by heirs to the Arm & Hammer baking soda empire. “I just remember him liking it immediately and buying it — boom, like that,” recalls Fredericks in the same New York Times piece.

Montauk Beach by Andy Warhol. Photo courtesy of Christie’s.
Montauk Beach by Andy Warhol. Photo courtesy of Christie’s.

Coming to auction on April 28th until May 6th are several Polaroid pictures Warhol took on his visits to Montauk, part of the Andy Warhol: Better Days event, presented by Christie’s. Among these lots is a snapshot of a beach in Montauk, empty besides two men off in the distance. Photos like this one give bidders a look into the quiet life Warhol envisioned during his stays at the property.

While building the Montauk property, the Arm & Hammer heirs named it Eothen, which means “at first light” in ancient Greek. While the area, the property, and its origin lent itself to a quiet getaway for Warhol, the noisy life the Pop Art icon built for himself followed him there. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, her sister, Lee Radziwill, and the Kennedy children stayed in one cottage the first summer. Elizabeth Taylor, Truman Capote, Liza Minelli, and many others would eventually follow. The Rolling Stones practiced songs from their album Black and Blue in the main house in 1975.

But in the photos by Warhol coming to auction this and next week, the focus is not on celebrities. Instead, it is on the empty beaches and the rising cliffs. Viewers are left to wonder how Warhol balanced his idolization of vast, empty landscapes with his well-documented and seemingly contradictory fascination with fame.

Montauk Beach by Andy Warhol. Photo courtesy of Christie’s.
Montauk Beach by Andy Warhol. Photo courtesy of Christie’s.

It’s unclear how personally invested Warhol was in Eothen and Montauk at any one time. But most people close to Warhol agree that, at one point or another, the area caught his curiosity. “[He] wasn’t interested in the house, he was interested in the investment end of it,” remembers Warhol’s manager and co-owner of Eothen, Paul Morrissey. But Morrisey says Warhol eventually “got to love the house.” Meanwhile, the broker, Tina Fredericks, attests to Warhol’s quick commitment to the property. But, she says Warhol eventually made his visits less frequent. “He had a lot of problems with the wind, which took his hairpiece off.”

Those interested in the photographs of Montauk can register to bid for the Andy Warhol: Better Days auction on the Christie’s website. Online bidding begins today, April 28th, at 10 AM EST and concludes at 10 AM on May 6th.

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