ANDY WARHOL The Treasured Possession of a Best Friend: Andy Warhol's Crystal and Japanese Omamori presented to Brigid Berlin upon his death.
A group of five items including a hexagonal quartz crystal terminating in a hexagonal pyramid, 3 1/2 x 1 x 1/2 inches (9 x 2.5 x 2 cm); three Japanese Omamori acquired by Andy Warhol in Japan, each about 3 x 2 inches (8 x 5 cm), two worn; and a small tan cotton "Shoe Cleaner" pouch from the Watergate Hotel, Washington D.C., that houses the group. The pouch 6 1.2 x 5 inches (17 x 12 cm), worn from use.
"I'm going to go to a doctor who puts crystals on you and it gives you energy ... I think it sounds like a good thing to be doing. Health is wealth."
The Andy Warhol Diaries, Tuesday, July 31, 1984.
Kept close by Andy Warhol at the end of his life and with him at the time of his death in February 1987, the crystal present here was given to Brigid Berlin by Warhol's executor Fred Hughes around the time of Andy's funeral. Secreted away for two decades, Brigid rarely spoke or shared the crystal. Its existence only became known to her co-executor Rob Vaczy in 2014. At the end of her life though Brigid moved Andy's crystal to be closer to her, and it was in her bedside table at the time of her death in July 2020.
In the summer of 1984, Andy Warhol became interested in the healing properties of crystals and they became part of his life, routine, and hope to alleviate his increasing pain without surgery. Crystals are mentioned at least a dozen times in the Andy Warhol Diaries in a variety of contexts ranging from the spiritually deep to the humorous to the questioning of a crystal's true power. The most descriptive entry dates from Wednesday, August 15, 1984, when Warhol's "crystal doctor" reported "that I wasn't in touch with my pain. But it didn't hurt is the thing. But he said it was because I wasn't sensitive to the pain yet and that I would have to become sensitive to it. And he took my crystal and asked it, 'How long? ... So I'm going to wait four days and then I have to have it with me always and not more than ten feet away when I'm asleep. I really do believe that all this hokum-pokum helps, though. It's positive thinking. And it's why people wear gold and jewels. It does have something... He said I had some negative powers in me and I asked him how long I would have to come to him and he didn't tell me. It's so abstract. But you do feel better when you get out."
In the following year, 1985, Andy appears committed: "Look, I know people are ridiculous, but it's the crystals I believe in. They do work. When you think that these crystals were in the center of the earth and have all this energy" (Friday, April 19, 1985).
As Andy weakened, a crystal was worn around his neck or constantly carried. In a late entry, Andy's vulnerability peeks out: "Went down to the Palladium ... as we were standing looking over the balcony my crystal fell out of my stomach and onto the dance floor and I had to go down and find it. Wilfredo actually found it. Tony Shafrazi was next to me when it fell. It could've killed somebody. I wear it over my stomach between the surgical corsets and it just fell out."
Following a very late but successful surgery to remove his gallbladder, Andy Warhol died in a Manhattan hospital on February 22nd, 1987. From his executor Fred Hughes, Brigid Berlin was given this pouch with crystal and Omamori, reported to have been with Andy at the end of his life. From one best friend to another, a powerful crystal in a Watergate Hotel pouch. How Andy. She felt its force and put it away.
We trace no other of Andy Warhol's crystals presented to friends and consider it the most intimate and impactful of personal objects. We are indebted to Pat Hackett and Brigid's co-executor Vincent Fremont for conversations regarding Andy's crystal, as well as co-executor Rob Vaczy who has provided the recollections that accompany the lot. Present is also a double-exposure photograph presenting Brigid and Andy's faces together, both in their later years, best friends in death as is in life.
For Rob Vaczy's recollections of Andy Warhol's crystal see here:
Andy Warhol's Crystal and Omamori
The following is what was told to me by Brigid about Andy's crystal and omamori and my recollections about the same.
When Andy died, Brigid was in London. She took the next plane back to New York where she was met by reporters on both sides of the Atlantic, hoping that she would make a statement about Andy's death. When she got to New York, it was on or about the time of his funeral that Brigid asked Fred Hughes, Andy's business manager and executor of his estate, if she could have "Andy's crystal" as a memento. This is the group of artifacts that Fred gave to her, which he retrieved from the jacket pocket Andy wore to the hospital when he went in for gallbladder surgery on February 20, 1987. Along with his crystal were three Japanese omamori, together housed in a tan, cotton Watergate Hotel shoe pouch. These items were with Andy when he died.
I first became aware of the crystal and omamori in 2014 when Billy Name came over to Brigid's apartment to discuss a book of his that was being published, for which Brigid was a contributor. Though it is debatable whether Billy was the first to introduce Andy to "healing crystals," it was for this reason that Brigid chose to bring them out on this occasion. Brigid went on to tell the story of how she came to possess the items, adding that Andy kept the crystal and omamori with him at all times, up until the day he died. This story was repeated to me by Brigid on several occasions, as it was to Brigid's close friend, Pat Hackett, who was Andy's confidant, diarist and editor of The Andy Warhol Diaries. Brigid might have told others, but to my knowledge we were the only ones who knew of their existence.
The collection of artifacts include Andy's crystal, three omamori amulets with obi, and Watergate Hotel shoe pouch. This is exactly what was presented to me when I first saw them in 2014. The obis indicate that the omamori are from the Kyoto Temple in Japan-specifically, the Heian Shrine-a place that Andy visited twice, once in 1956 and again in '72. Drawings exist of Andy's rendering of the shrine from this time period. Brigid suspected it was from one of Andy's stays at the Watergate Hotel that he obtained the shoe cleaner pouch in which he kept his crystal and omamori. According to Benjamin Liu, Andy's personal assistant in the 1980's, Andy most likely purchased the crystal at Astro Minerals on 34th Street and Madison Avenue or it was given to him by his crystal "doctor." The doctor would then program the crystal to direct its energies towards the ailments that Andy felt needed attention. Benjamin also stated that Andy would always keep the crystal in a static place-a jacket pocket-knowing that it would be with him at all times. Brigid concluded that Andy must have incorporated the omamori with the crystals as a way to enhance their powers and to act as a talisman to ward off "bad energy."
Brigid and Andy had a long history of discussing the "pain in his side," which Brigid had always insisted was his gallbladder. She would often lament the fact that he waited so long to have it properly treated and, as a consequence of that surgery-or, more accurately, due to the negligence of the hospital's post surgery care-Andy died on February 22, 1987. After Brigid died in 2020, it was while going through one of her two matching bed tables where I found, nestled next to a pair of old rosary beads, the Watergate Hotel shoe cleaner pouch containing Andy's crystal and omamori. They have been in my possession ever since.
- Rob Vaczy, New York, April 2022.
See also The Andy Warhol Diaries, edited by Pat Hackett, First Twelve Edition, 2014, various pages.
C Estate of Brigid Berlin
Additional Notes & Condition Report
No condition report? Click here to request one.