Past Auction

The Duchess of Warhol: The Estate of Brigid Berlin

Wed, Apr 27, 2022 at 10am EDT |
New York
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Sale Total Surpasses Expectations Amid Competitive Bidding!

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  • Auction of the Estate of Brigid Berlin on Wednesday, April 27, 2022 at 10am
  • Daughter of Hearst Publishing’s Richard Berlin Who Became Andy Warhol’s Best Friend and a Factory Legend
  • Sale Total Surpasses Expectations Amid Competitive Bidding!

NEW YORK, NY -- Doyle's landmark auction of The Duchess of Warhol: The Estate of Brigid Berlin on April 27, 2022 attracted collectors and fans from across the country and around the world bidding on original art, memorabilia and furnishings from Brigid's Manhattan apartment.

Brigid BerlinFew could combine uptown style with downtown chic quite like Brigid Berlin. Daughter of Honey and Richard Berlin, the straight-laced chairman of the Hearst media empire, a multitude of finishing schools failed to corral Brigid. Her marriage at age 19 to a Manhattan window dresser didn't last but did introduce her to Andy Warhol, who worked down the block.

Enamored with Brigid’s Fifth Avenue upbringing and carefree adulthood, Warhol dubbed her The Duchess and welcomed her into the developing world of The Factory. The two became best friends over time. It was Brigid who introduced Andy to the tape recorder and Polaroid camera, resulting in one of the best documented art movements in history. Brigid, barely clothed in most photographs, made “Tit Prints,” kept triBrigid Berlinp diaries, appeared in Chelsea Girls in 1966, recorded The Velvet Underground and staggered audiences with highly personal stage performances. What is often understated in recounting her relationship with Warhol is that Brigid Berlin was one of the most influential and risk-taking artists of the 20th century.

In 1986, Brigid Berlin bought her apartment on East 28th Street, nestled between her Factory and Fifth Avenue worlds. Described by The New York Times as “a ladylike pink-and-green Palm Beach fantasia,” Berlin’s floral-wallpapered apartment was filled Brigid Berlinwith pictures of pugs, her elegant portrait by Joe Eula, needlepoints of New York Post covers, hundreds of books on the Factory scene and a signed photograph depicting Andy with the Pope.

In Brigid's apartment, worlds collide to dazzling effect representing her absolutely unique point of view. The Duchess of Warhol: The Estate of Brigid Berlin offered home furnishings, original art and memorabilia that thrills, shocks and delights as much as Brigid did in life.

The Duchess of Warhol: A Tribute by Rob Vaczy

“Truman [Capote] was reading at Lincoln Center and Brigid decided she wasn’t going to go…but she made me promise to swear that she was there if he asked. We had fourth-row center, next to Halston and Martha Graham. Truman read and acted the parts out…”A Christmas Memory” and a couple of other ones. [Afterward] the first thing he asked me was, “Where’s Brigid?” And I swore she was there, and he said “Well then where is she?” And I said she had to go home, but I think he knew.”
         — Andy Warhol, The Andy Warhol Diaries.

Artist, actress, documentarian, Warhol Superstar and pug aficionado, Brigid Berlin’s extraordinary life straddled two at-odds NYC worlds: uptown Society vs. the anything-goes downtown art, literature and music scene that embodied the creative zeitgeist of the 1960’s and ’70's. It was the synthesis of these two cultures—and particularly her close affiliation and friendship with Andy Warhol—for which Ms. Berlin became known.

Her father, Richard E. Berlin, was chosen by William Randolph Hearst himself to be president and CEO of that vast Hearst media empire. He married the beautiful Socialite, Muriel “Honey” Johnson, and in 1939 Brigid, their first child, was born. Along with their three other children, they all lived in the family maisonette on Fifth Avenue and 64th Street where Dick and Honey entertained world leaders and Hollywood celebrities. “I’d pick up the phone and it would be Richard Nixon calling for Daddy,” Berlin recalled. “I remember my parents entertaining Lyndon Johnson, too, and there were lots of Hollywood people because of San Simeon - Clark Gable, Joan Crawford…I have a whole box of letters, written to my parents in the late 1940’s and ’50’s from the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Whenever I’d get into trouble or get kicked out of another private school, my parents would threaten to have J. Edgar Hoover come after me, because he was a regular at our house, too.” Her outrageous personality and penchant for rebellion was in evidence from an early age, and while this would cause problems in her family relationships—especially with her mother—it was this friction that she would so often draw upon for creative inspiration.

Meeting Warhol in 1964, her blueblood upbringing, together with her high spirits and penchant for troublemaking, immediately captivated the pop icon. Not to mention her delight in conceptual thinking. Warhol and Berlin would trade ideas for hours on end in phone calls from his house on Lexington and 89th Street to her tiny room at the George Washington Hotel on East 23rd. In their years of daily conversations over the phone, Berlin gave Warhol many of the ideas that he incorporated into his work. When he was making his ground-breaking film Chelsea Girls (1968), he cast her as the drug-dealing “Duchess,” later marveling to friends, “Brigid’s the best thing in the movie.” Often working under the sobriquet “Brigid Polk,” she became a major player at The Factory, as Warhol’s studio was called. She made friends and acquired fans anywhere she went, carrying her Polaroid cameras and tape recorders to obsessively and prodigiously document her world. Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Salvador Dali, John Lennon, Lou Reed, Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, Truman Capote, Jim Carroll, Diana Vreeland, Charles James, Dennis Hopper, Jack Nicholson were all friends and “subjects” in the work of this one-of-a-kind documentarian. (The source of the seminal recording, The Velvet Underground, Live at Max’s Kansas City was a simple cassette recording she had made at the scene one night for her own personal enjoyment. She had tucked it away in her well organized collection of hundreds of other recordings that she was constantly making of friends: Atlantic Records later learned of the existence of this unique performance tape and made arrangements with her to release it on their label in 1972.)

She would demur when asked if she was an artist, saying, “You don’t call yourself an “artist”—if others want to, that’s up to them.” Her creative output during the course of her career was vast and multifaceted. In addition to her Polaroids and cassette tape recordings, there were her “tit” paintings, needlepoints of tabloid front pages, “trip books”, and multimedia and performance art. She has been acknowledged for inventing the double exposure Polaroid and, depending on who you talk to, the selfie. (A collection of her work can be seen in the 2015 book, Brigid Berlin: Polaroids, published by Reel Art Press.). Her portrait Polaroids are memorialized in the photo paintings of Gerhard Richter and Alice Neel. During the course of her career, her whimsical and irreverent style would be featured in some of the most revered museums throughout the world and her influence on Warhol cannot be overstated. She introduced him to the Polaroid camera and the cassette tape recorder. In fact, of all the associations Warhol made throughout his life, it is Brigid Berlin’s name that is dropped more times than anyone else’s in The Andy Warhol Diaries, edited by Pat Hackett.

Berlin and Warhol remained best friends until his untimely death in 1987. She would work on at The Factory for a few years after that, until retreating to home life, where she continued to make art and attend to her beloved pug dogs. In these later years, it was to the Society aspect of her life that she found herself returning. Her public persona as a rough and ready Warhol superstar had always belied an inner appreciation for the sublime and the beautiful. Her two bedroom East 28th Street apartment was the epitome of refined taste, decorated by Berlin herself, with furnishings from her family’s Fifth Avenue residence, along with reminders of her days with Warhol and augmented by those things that she loved. Especially pugs!

After her death in 2020, she bequeathed her apartment and its contents to longtime friend and companion, multi-media producer Rob Vaczy. She requested that any estate sale be held at Doyle, with whom she had a fond relationship. The sale of this collection, which reflects the two worlds in which she lived, fulfills that wish.

For more on Brigid Berlin visit:

T: The New York Times Style Magazine: Brigid Berlin, Andy Warhol's Most Enduring Friend

The New York Times: Brigid Berlin, Socialite Who Joined Warhol’s World, Dies at 80

New York Social Diary: Brigid Berlin

The New York Post: NYC spread owned by Warhol superstar Brigid Berlin sells for $1.1M

The Los Angeles Times: Brigid Berlin's Polaroids Chronicled Andy Warhol's World and Presaged Our Social Media Age

ArtForum: Brigid Berlin

A Walkabout with the Specialist

Specialist Peter Costanzo led a tour of the exhibition on livestreamed on Instagram @doylenewyork.
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  • Estate of Brigid Berlin

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