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Horizons: Family Office & Investor Magazine

Collecting Warhol with Jim Hedges: From Curiosity to the Depths of Obsession

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

James R. (“Jim”) Hedges, IV was one of the early leaders in the hedge fund and alternative investments industry, and is the author of Hedges on Hedge Funds. He was the Founder, President, and Chief Investment Officer of LJH Global Investments, LLC, an alternative investment advisory firm which he sold in 2010.

Jim Hedges has been an active art collector and patron for over 20 years. With a specialized focus on photography by Andy Warhol, Jim has acquired and placed more Warhol photography than any other collector, private dealer or gallery in the world.

Jim has served on The Drawings Acquisition Committee at the Museum of Modern Art, as a National Council Chair for the Aspen Art Museum, a member of the National Committee of The Anderson Ranch, a Director of The Aspen Institute’s Arts Panel, as a Trustee for The Drawing Center, a Founder of The American Friends of the Tate Gallery, a Founder of The Aspen Conversations, a Trustee of The DIA Foundation, a Trustee of ArtPace, and member of the National Committee for the Whitney Museum of American Art. He is also a former Director of The National Public Radio Foundation (NPR).

Hedges has also assisted in the publishing of artist monographs including Sigmar Polke, Robert Mangold, Sol LeWitt, Ed Ruscha and numerous others. Hedges has supported artist’s retrospectives including Roni Horn at The Whitney Museum of American Art and Sol Lewitt, at the same venue. Support has also been provided to Carl Andre and Sol Lewitt exhibits at The Aspen Institute. Hedges has also made donations of numerous artworks to major institutions such as The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Museum of Modern Art, The Menil Collection, The Dia Foundation, The Tate Mod- ern, The Hunter Museum of American Art, The Baylor School, and Girls Preparatory School. In 2016, Hedges made a gift to The Archive of American Art at The Smithsonian of “The Jimmy Hedges Papers on Outsider Art,” the largest collection of curatorial research materials on Outsider Artists. The Archive will serve as a permanent resource for students, curators and collectors of Outsider, Self-Taught and Folk artists.

Hedges’ activities in the art world led Art and Antiques magazine to name Mr. Hedges as one of “The Top 100 Collectors in America.” He also served as President of The Hedges Family Charitable Foundation. Hedges Projects has also published numerous editions with artists in Andy Warhol’s inner circle including Christopher Makos and Sam Bolton.

Matthias Knab: You are known as the global top collector for Warhol Photography, can you tell us how you got involved in collecting these photo- graphs?

Jim Hedges: I was very fortunate because I had been collecting some Warhol material in the 90’s and the early 80s, and I started to get very obsessed with Warhol’s Polaroids. These were the portraits that he would make of people either outside in social environments or in his studio, “The Factory,” and I initially wanted to purchase just a couple of them. Then I was introduced to some wonderful folks at The Andy Warhol Foundation for Visual Arts. Joel Wachs runs that organization and he has done an incredibly great job with the Warhol Estate and the grant-making that they do out of the Foundation now.

When I was introduced to Joel, I was able to go into the Foundation and began to purchase directly from them, which was something that very, very few people were awarded the opportunity to do. So, I’ve always felt so fortunate for being able to have this access.

I began rather modestly. I bought probably a handful of Polaroids and then the more time I spent at the Foundation, the more I learned about the material and the deeper appreciation I had for photography’s role in the artist’s overall work, that irresistibly led me to wanting to do more-and-more.

Myself along with some friends got together and we started purchasing very large quantities of Warhol photographs either from the Foundation, and then I also bought from other private collectors. Over the course of a decade, I put together what is reputed to be the largest private collection of Warhol photo- graphs in the world.

I did this through various acquisitions from both the Foundation, private dealers and other private collectors. Then I began showing the work. Around 2010, I started partnering with leading galleries around the

world at art fairs and/or dedicated exhibits to showcase this work and really get it seen by a broader audience. I was working with these leading galleries and supplying them with consignments so that when you went to Art Basel or Frieze or The Armory Show and you saw these Warhol photographs, chances are good that many of them came from my holdings; additionally, I began working with some art collecting institutions to help them acquire certain works, and I have been involved with some of the world’s most esteemed institutions in that respect.

Finally, I also wanted to get the work in front of the people in unexpected places. I partnered with various hospitality and retail companies for the display of this work. So since 2010 I have mounted a few dozen different types of exhibits or showcases of Warhol’s photography, and it’s fair to say that nobody else in the world has shown as broadly and created more opportunities to see Andy’s photos during this period than I have.

Matthias Knab: Your father Jimmy Hedges went from real estate to becoming an artist and well known art collector, and you were a pioneer in hedge funds of funds and are today recognized as one of the “The Top 100 Collectors in America.”

Let’s look back for a moment, can you recall how you personally got interested in art for the first time, and what was the role of your father in that?

Jim Hedges: The story is really best told by art collector and author Tiqui Atencio, who wrote about the Hedges Family collecting legacy in her book, “Could Have, Should Have, Would Have,” which profiled a group of well-respected collecting families around the world.

My memories of my family’s interest in collecting begin with my great grandmother, “Dot” Hedges, who not only founded the Hunter Museum in our hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee, while she was President of the Arts League, but she was herself a remarkable collector, a woman who built her own French chateau on Lookout Mountain filled with imported boiserie and marble floors and priceless 18th century French antiques and paintings. Her zest for collecting set the stage for what would follow.

Later, my grand mother, Lee Evans, spent approximately 50 years as a docent teaching school children about art in the museum. Her gentle and approach- able manner literally opened the eyes of tens of thousands of young people (including me) to art history and how they could nurture their own creative spirits. As for my father, Jimmy Hedges, III, was an artist, mostly a sculptor, who was introduced to self-taught artists in the South. With a respect for the creative humanist spirit, he supported artists and ultimately amassed what has been called the largest outsider art collection in the world, comprised of over 2400 objects including African American art of the South, American Indian art, Haitian art, Tramp Art, art of the developmentally challenged and art of those imprisoned. I inherited his collection at his death in 2014, and I have made a number of gifts to art collecting institutions of works from his collection so that his legacy and that of the artists he sought to support would be protected.

When I began collecting, I was really eager to forge my own path and began with collecting photography. In the late 1980’s, it was a relatively small and inexpensive segment of the art world- a great place to cut one’s collecting teeth. In time, my tastes and financial commitment increased, so now I view collecting as a creative expression in my life as well as a steward- ship of the gifts I’ve been given by my family, and of course, it’s also a sensational investment!

Matthias Knab: Coming back to the Warhol photos, can you recall a certain exhibit or project that you did that stuck with you, that was special in a way?

Jim Hedges: I’m very proud of the fact that I took one body of a very under recognized and under-appreciated work called “Sex Parts” and “Torsos.” Andy Warhol would make nude photographs which he called “Landscapes” and depending upon whether or not they were explicit or were just classical, he would call each one of the photos either a “Sex Part” or a “Torso.” These works were made for the most part in 1977 when Warhol took these Landscapes and created the Sex Parts & Torsos Polaroids, he used those images for making prints as well as paintings. The photograph was always source material for a print or a painting over the years, and at the time if he was always central to that.

The first painting show of Sex Parts & Torsos happened in 1977 at ACE Gallery here in Los Angeles, and it was very surprising and shocking to the world. After the show at ACE Gallery it was then moved to the Grand Palais in Paris. My collection of Sex Parts and Torsos were later showcased at the Grand Palais in Paris as well, and seen by tens of thousands of visitors.

I took 99 of these Sex Parts & Torsos, and framed them and hung them very, very tightly in a grid, and we displayed them during FIAC. So 35 years after the original show at the Grand Palais, some of these Sex Parts & Torsos material came back to visit again, and it was quite well-written about in the press. It was a wonderful, wonderful moment that I was very proud to put together.

Matthias Knab: Were you ever in touch with Warhol himself or someone that was close to him?

Jim Hedges: Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to meet Warhol. I was slightly too young to have been in that world at that time, but I have gotten to know an enormous number of people in his world.

Certainly Pat Hackett, who was the editor of The Warhol Diaries, and co-author with Andy Warhol’s POP- ism, and was Andy’s confidante for the better part of three decades.

Pat and I have become very dear friends, and she probably has, more than anybody out there, a profoundly deep encyclopedic knowledge of all things of Warhol, what he was doing, how he moved in the world, and what he really thought about people.

Pat is a remarkable wellspring of education and con- text. Frequently, I have been able to go into Pat and say, “Here is this photo. I don’t know who this person is,” and she goes on to say, “oh, that’s so and so” or “that was the time that Andy did such and such;” that’s been hugely valuable. Of course, I’ve met lots of other people in Andy’s world.

Tim Hunt ran all of the photography sales at The Warhol Foundation. He is a wonderful guy who passed away this past year. I have gotten to know Vincent Fremont, of course, also Ronnie Cutrone, who was a painting assistant for many years. I’ve had interesting contact with “Little Joe,” (Dallessandro) who is the famous Warhol film star. I have gotten to spend time with Brigid Berlin, Bob Colacello, Sandy Brant and her former husband, Peter Brant. All of these relationships have proven so valuable. I have really been able to immerse myself with those people that were closest to Andy.

The other thing about owning this work which has been hugely, hugely gratifying is that a lot of times people who were the subjects of the photos have learned of my holdings and have called me up and said, “I’d love to see that photo” or “can you get me a copy of such a thing.”

The people are sort of luminaries such as people like Diane Von Furstenberg, Bianca Jagger, Calvin Klein, Diana Ross and Bruce Weber. Bob Colacello is another one that was deeply in Andy Warhol’s world, and I have gotten to know Bob, who also made some wonderful photographs when he and Andy were out socializing. Christopher Makos is another one that was very much in that world with whom I’ve become friendly. Christopher and I actually collaborated where I produced an editioned print collage of Debbie Harry, Andy Warhol and Halston.

Essentially, I have met and had quality time with virtually everybody that was in that inner Warhol circle who is still living.

I also have lots of mutual friends with Jed Johnson, who was one of Andy’s boyfriends, who perished aboard the TWA 800 flight. Fred Hughes, of course I never met, but most of the others that are still living, I have managed to know.

Matthias Knab: Can you explain some of the differences between Warhol’s Polaroids compared to his 35 mm unique silver gelatin photographs?

Jim Hedges: I am so happy to talk about that. A little bit of history is probably helpful. Andy Warhol carried a camera with him throughout the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Around the late 1960’s Warhol began carrying a Polaroid camera with him as ‘his date’ in order to document subjects. So actually, prior to what appears to be about 1976, he was always carrying a Polaroid, and especially the Polaroid “Big Shot,” became a tool in Warhol’s broader art-making practice. Polaroid portraits and still-life’s were staged in The Factory, which served as source material for prints and paintings.

In the mid 70s Warhol started using a 35 mm camera that was given to him by Thomas Ammann, the Zurich art dealer, with which he created unique silver gelatin prints mostly printed in 8-inch by 10-inch format.

In the Factory, Warhol would very frequently take the Polaroid pictures of his subjects, whether it’s an inanimate object like a banana or pictures of paintings in the Factory, an actual celebrity or somebody that was commissioning a portrait. When would do that, very frequently, he would also take black-and-white 35 mm photos of the exact same scene. Many times I’ve had a Polaroid of a subject and a 35 mm photo of the same subject, in the same place, probably taken within seconds of each other. Then finally, you see difference in the paintings that are made from the same sitting. So, it’s a wonderful arc.

The 35 mm black-and-white film probably tells you more about Andy’s life and Andy’s obsessions and fascinations than any other part of his work. Andy was compulsive with his use of the camera. You see that he took photos of people when he was out at night life and events. You see that there were certain things that he became obsessive with. For instance, whenever he travelled, he clearly didn’t like to be alone, and so he kept himself busy by taking photos of a lot of recurrent themes. You see that when he was in a hotel, he often took pictures of toilets, bath- rooms, room service trays, chandeliers, a whole host of things, and it’s interesting because when you look over the course of years and dozens of trips more, you see that Andy was always sort of attracted to these objects when he was alone with time to concentrate and reflect on the subjects.

The other interesting thing about the 35 mm work is that you see certain pockets of Andy’s life well-documented. For instance, Andy owned a house in Montauk, a beautiful, very traditional estate out at the end of Long Island with Paul Morrissey, the filmmaker. He very frequently documented his time at that home, and the people that visited.

Another example is that Andy had a close relation- ship with John Powers. John and Kimiko Powers were a very famous art-collecting couple who lived in Carbondale, Colorado just outside of Aspen. Andy went up there a number of times to see him and would document those trips, and sometimes he would have a boyfriend around, mostly his last boyfriend Jon Gould or other friends. Similarly, he created a nice photo journal of Aspen and its surroundings, just like he did with Montauk and its surroundings and people.

Matthias Knab: And the feedback that you got from general audience, can you tell us how that was? Have you had a chance to talk to people who are interested in buying his work outside of the circle of people who have been working with Warhol, for example?

Jim Hedges: That’s why I say there is a Warhol for everyone. If you think about the real breadth of things that he photographed; everything from a celebrity like Mick Jagger or Jean-Michel Basquiat to a Still Life of Bananas or Eggs, to toys, to things that appeared in his prints. You have got virtually every type of subject matter documented by Warhol, and because of that you will never ceased to be surprised by who is really attracted to a particular work. I will give you an example. I had purchased a number of Polaroids that were tied to the set of great athletes that Warhol documented in a print series done with Richard Weisman. I bought these photos and I thought well, you know, there are some stars and there are some duds and all-in-all, it’s interesting to have a number of selections of the ten subjects.

Much to my surprise, I had Polaroid photographs of Dorothy Hamill, the figure skater, and I could have sold 20 of those photographs. The reason is that ladies, of a certain generation, were attracted to that iconic haircut that she was known for.

That’s sort of a fun example of something that you think would never be iconic, but then, in fact, it was an obsessive level interest in that subject. I could tell you that kind of a story a dozen times over.

Everybody loves to see Bianca Jagger, Keith Haring, Debbie Harry or Grace Jones, those are the block- busters. On the other hand, you would be surprised at how many people want to see a Polaroid of Teddy Kennedy or who want to see a Polaroid of crosses. Warhol was a Catholic and he took all these photos of crosses randomly laid out, to create what are beautiful minimalist images, often abstracted. I tell you lots of fallen Catholics have found that work very appealing! So there really is a Warhol for everyone.

Matthias Knab: Going back to the exhibitions that you organize, where can we see them next?

Jim Hedges: Well honestly, I am always at work, trying to find places and moments to showcase this exceptionally broad diverse group of works. Right now a lot of the art world are expecting a very important Warhol show at the Whitney Museum which Donna De Salvo is curating and will open in November 2018.

This is the first major retrospective show of Warhol’s work in a museum since before Andy’s death in 1987. Donna De Salvo was involved in that exhibit as well. It’s interesting to think about what’s going to be shown, because of course, the world really knows so much of Warhol’s iconic work. As I understand it, this show is really dedicated to those under-appreciated or under-recognized areas. Andy’s photography is clearly central to that. Warhol only had one gallery photo exhibit during his lifetime which opened six weeks before his death. Pat Hackett, Warhol’s confidante, has told me that Andy was getting ready to make photography his next big push and to begin showing this work in the context of fine art more broadly.

It has been photography – whether it’s photo booth strips or Polaroids or the 8x10s that are black and white – which has been less studied than any other part of his artistic output, in spite of the fact that photography was, for Andy, central to every aspect of his art-making process. I suspect that we will see a big moment at the Whitney for photography.

Of course, there is also a new project at Stanford, where they have digitized Andy Warhol’s Contact Sheets, from the 35 mm film. They are publishing a book coming out at the end of September 2018, which will be very interesting.

I think between the Stanford exhibit and book, of their digitalization project and the Whitney show, we are going to have a big moment. Naturally, I will be having a gallery show in New York City in the late Fall to capitalize on this momentum.

I feel it’s important to see and appreciate my col- lection as broadly as possible, and I think there is a Warhol for everyone. His work resonates with lots of people in lots of different settings. As I said before, I am trying to do many things in many different ways: I have partnered with galleries, I have partnered with institutions, I have partnered with hospitality and retail companies, I am doing online sales, all of this has really cast a very broad net for people having the opportunity to come in contact with the work.

Matthias Knab: : I read a couple of interesting articles that suggest Warhol would have been very attracted to Instagram or other social media as a means to use photography. What is your view on that, given that Warhol had six ways of producing photographs back in the day when computer was right in its beginning, What do you think he would have thought of Instagram, for example?

Jim Hedges: I remember one time when I had a conversation with another multi-disciplinary artist, Jack Pierson, an exceptional artist, who like Warhol has had a huge breadth of artistic output and has done so in multiple mediums and in multiple chapters of his life.

Jack was talking about using the iPhone as a camera, and he just held it up to me and he said, “You know, this is what everybody uses now. This is how people see the world, and I am going to use this as an art making tool as well.”

And when he said that I thought how very Warholian! I could imagine Warhol taking the same approach.

The only thing that I would add is I think it’s import- ant to keep in mind what the implication of this work being under-appreciated and understudied, so far, has been. And that’s that it’s an extraordinarily good value. Photographs routinely sell from a few thousand dollars to maybe $75,000 to $100,000, depending upon what we are talking about, but that’s really the full breadth of the market. Most photos probably sell for $10,000 to $20,000, maybe $25,000.

Remember, these photographs, whether it’s a black- and-white silver gelatin print or a Polaroid, these are unique, singular objects. It’s not an object that has been produced from serial repetition.

If you compare a unique object of a Polaroid that costs $15,000 or $20,000, that is the source material for prints and paintings, that might represent one tenth the cost of a print or even one one-thousandth the cost of a painting. That doesn’t make any sense to me. That photograph is a unique object. The print that was made from the photograph may be one of several hundred in the world, whereas the photo is one-of-a-kind. Just in terms of rarity and singularity, I think photos are hugely undervalued.

Matthias Knab: Well, you are taking about I think state of the art market in general, but maybe Andy Warhol would be the perfect example for that.

Jim Hedges: I think that’s right. You see a lot of valuation disparities amongst artists’ body of work, which has informed much of my investment premises in the art world.

Another example is the photography of Cy Twombly. This is exceptionally, exceptionally beautiful work and clearly very important work to the artist, but for years, Twombly photos sold for ridiculously low prices relative to the artist’s other work; I began buying Twombly photos for around $12,000 each, and now, they have gone up about eight-fold in the past few years. I still think they are a great deal compared to the fact that a good drawing might start at a million dollars.

Matthias Knab: We talked a lot about art as a passion, let’s look at the financial aspects of art as an investment. You have a great track record in that as well, how can people benefit from your expertise?

Jim Hedges: Investing in art takes many forms. Buying out-of-favor blue chip art is a strategy I’ve implemented with Warhol, Twombly, Richard Serra, Sigmar Polke, Ed Ruscha, and dozens of other artists. When I invest in equity of art, I am looking to make a minimum of 3 times my investment, and typically the returns are between five and ten times my capital invested. Additionally, I have been a provider of debt capital to individuals, private collectors and private dealers, needing to borrow against their collection of inventory. Typically, these are very high quality, short-duration loans, with very high interest rates which have produced greater than 30% IRR’s for my investments since 2010.

Investing in art requires very deep domain expertise, and it is a landscape veiled in privacy/secrecy and preferential access. With nearly $100 billion of annual turnover, the art market may be the largest financial market free from regulation and oversight. The combination of these factors creates enormous opportunities for investors in the space.

I’m now planning to launch an art investment fund which will capitalize on these opportunities in a more scalable way. In the past, I’ve co-invested in art with a handful of family offices. Now, I hope to broaden that network of investors and approach larger potential transactions.

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