Andy Warhol portrait of disgraced OJ Simpson to go under the hammer


A portrait of the disgraced American football star OJ Simpson by pop-art innovator Andy Warhol is to be sold at auction.

Created in 1977 and signed by both men, the screen print is billed by the auction house as a work that brings together two of the most recognisable names of the 20th century and captures “a trajectory of celebrity and tragedy”.

“Warhol certainly could never have imagined how differently the image would come to be viewed, nor the controversy that still lingers around its subject today,” said Robert Manley, co-head of 20th century and contemporary art at the Phillips auction house in New York, which is auctioning the work May 16.

It was almost two decades after Mr Warhol’s photo shoot, in 1995, that Simpson, who had retired from the NFL in 1979 and pursued an acting career, was acquitted of the double killings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman.

In a separate case more than a decade later, Simpson was convicted by a jury in Las Vegas for leading five men, including two with guns, in a 2007 confrontation with two sports collectibles dealers in a cramped room at an off-strip Las Vegas casino hotel.

Simpson served nine years in a Nevada prison for armed robbery. He was discharged from parole in December 2021.

Mr Manley noted that five decades after Mr Warhol made it, the portrait still evokes a strong reaction.

“Those who view the image of Simpson staring directly down the camera are likely to recall the other notorious picture of the celebrity — his mugshot,” Manley said. “Juxtaposing these two images, created at such different points in Simpson’s life, shows a fascinating trajectory of celebrity and tragedy.”

Phillips estimates the portrait will sell in the 300,000 to 500,000 US dollars range (£238-400 million). As with any of the athletes in the series, Simpson would not have existing rights to proceeds, the auction house said.

The highest price achieved at auction for one of Mr Warhol’s Simpson portraits was 687,000 US dollars (£547,000), sold in 2019.


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