The Fall Of Bootleg (Empire)


In 1997 Douglas Gordon surreptitiously videotaped two hours of Andy Warhol's Empire during an installation in Berlin. He called it Bootleg (Empire):

'I did a version of 'Empire', which was called 'Bootleg Empire', it is almost like the amateur version of the auteur masterpiece -- it's very shakily done. I lived in Berlin for a while and I went to see Warhol's 'Empire' and I thought 'I may never get to see this again', so I filmed it for an hour went to the pub and then came back and filmed it for the last hour. So mine only lasts for two hours -- so it's like 'the best of' or something. But quite often my version is seen with his films in exhibitions, which is kind of funny as mine is slightly more dramatic as it is shaky and there are shadows of people walking in front of the camera.' (Jean Wainwright 'Mirror Images' (Interview with Douglas Gordon) Art Monthly, Dec-Jan 2002/03, No. 262) [via a new path]
In 1998, he released Bootleg (Empire) as a video edition of eleven. For whatever reason, maybe because he has the word "bootleg" in the title, it's often referred to as an homage. How many intellectual property battles could be dodged if everyone made sure to use that word, I wonder.

Anyway, one of the Bootleg (Empire) editions didn't sell Friday at Philips de Pury. The estimate was $30-40,000.

And the details seem confusing. The lot description says "installation dimensions variable," as you'd expect from a Gordon. But when another of the edition sold in 2000 at Christie's [for $9,400], the description said it was "for view on monitor only." The Christie's edition also contained two tapes, a VHS and a Beta, but the duration is given as only 62 minutes, not two hours. Philips doesn't bother to provide the duration information in their catalogue, but the piece was two hours long at the Guggenheim's "Haunted" exhibition last fall.

So far, I can find mentions of at least three other Bootleg works, all of which predate Empire. Bootleg (Big Mouth, Cramped and Stoned), use slowed down, slient concert performance footage from the Smiths, the Cramps, and the Rolling Stones, respectively.

Since 2001 here at, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting that time.

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