Bobby Short Nine Times

Andy Warhol, three paintings of Bobby Short, 1963, on cerulean blue, cerulean blue, and phthalo green, 20 x 16 in., Lot 142 at Phillips on 15 May 2024

I admit I had no idea, but it’s at least a little reassuring to learn no one was more surprised to discover Andy Warhol made portraits of Bobby Short than Bobby Short himself. It turns out he made at least nine, and they were among the very first photobooth portraits Warhol made, in the Winter of 1963.

photobooth self-portrait of Andy Warhol and Bobby Short in late 1963, the first frame in one of at least three strips of photos Warhol made, as reproduced in the 2002 Warhol CR, Vol. 1

In the catalogue raisonné the cabaret singer recalled going to the photobooth with Warhol—also Warhol drawing his feet—but said they never talked about portraits or a commission. the nine paintings of four images of Short were found in Warhol’s studio after his death.

Andy Warhol, Portrait of Bobby Short, 1963, silkscreen and cadmium red liquitex on canvas, 20×16 in., sold at Christie’s in 2006.

Short apparently didn’t know about the paintings until the CR editors came calling; did he ever get to see them? Short died in March 2005, just weeks before at least three went on public view for the first time, at Shafrazi. Another turned up at Christie’s in 2006. The two known photobooth strips Short made do not include any of the images Warhol used for the paintings.

Pulling back the curtain: Bobby Short photobooth portraits, 1963, from the Andy Warhol Estate, for sale by Hedges Projects

Warhol made his photobooth portraits in the Summer of 1963, beginning with Ethel Scull 35 Times [later Ethel Scull 36 Times when Warhol threw in another painting.] Short was next, then socialite Judith Green and Warhol himself. In this moment Warhol was also working on his 13 Most Wanted Men mural for the 1964 World’s Fair and on his first films—which would soon include the photobooth- and mugshot-influenced Screen Tests.

There is no Bobby Short Screen Test. Short was a voracious collector of famous friends and an absolutely masterful namedropper, and a longtime family friend, yet we heard boo, and Warhol gets zero mentions in Short’s biographies or papers. Was Warhol a little too downtown for Short’s crowd, or was Short just not a Factory type? Or was their relationship—or maybe it’s better to say their interaction—not the kind of thing one publicized back then? Maybe we should reserve judgment until we see the feet pics.

15 May 2024, Lot 142: Andy Warhol, Three Works: Bobby Short, est. $600-800,000 [phillips]
11 Nov 2015, Lot 330: the same three works not selling at Bukowski’s for EUR600-700,000 [bukowskis]
Previously, Bobby Short-related: The Little Apple; Monkey Bar by Joe Eula