An autographed photo of a nude Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis has been found by archivists searching through the thousands of collectibles gathered by late pop icon Andy Warhol.
And how did Warhol come to possess a naked poster of Jackie O signed, "For Andy, with enduring affection, Jackie Montauk"?
Matt Wrbican, who is overseeing the cumbersome project — and who along with other researchers authenticated the signature through handwriting comparisons — said Onassis was a frequent visitor to Warhol's Montauk beachfront estate.
Her second husband, Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, hired a photographer to take pictures of her skinny-dipping there. Which turns out to have been a mistake. It landed in the hands of porno publisher Larry Flynt, who turned it into a poster for his magazine, Hustler,
"Jackie O sent a copy — likely as a joke — to Warhol," Wrbican says.
"I really doubted it was her signature at first," he added. "But it really matches her writing."
The photo is one of the many items workers have uncovered as they sift through 610 cardboard boxes, filing cabinets and even a shipping container filled with what would be considered trash by most — but which could very well be treasure since it was collected by Warhol.
The archivists, hired with $600,000 from the Andy Warhol Foundation and several other smaller grants, have six years to comb through everything from taxi cab receipts to fan mail, meticulously cataloging, photographing and, when possible, researching the often bizarre items before entering them into a database.
Warhol was never one to throw things away, Wrbican says. In fact, when he died in 1987 at 58, his four-story Manhattan townhouse was packed with stuff: shopping bags filled with antiques, clothes, books and other artifacts from his daily expeditions, boxes, piles of furniture and even a drawer of gems worth $1 million.
"The only rooms that looked like a normal house were the bathroom and the kitchen," says Wrbican, who has been going through the artist's things since 1991.
However, there was no rhyme or reason to the collecting until about 1973. That's when a Warhol associate suggested the artist carry a box around to dump things inside. Each "time capsule" was filled, taped shut, dated and sent to a New Jersey storage facility.
In the 18 months since the project began, the archivists have opened 177 boxes — each with an average of 400 items, some with as many as 1,200.
Among the archivists' favorite finds: a mummified human foot belonging to an ancient Egyptian; a Ramones "45" record signed by the punk rock band's lead singer Joey Ramone, and a piece of orange nutbread cake sent to Warhol by one of his cousins with a note telling him to enjoy it with a cup of coffee.
Obviously, he didn't. Nor, apparently, did he savor a piece of wedding cake that has survived time. It was from the wedding of Caroline Kennedy, who married Edwin Schlossberg in 1986. However, Warhol did not tuck away the cake as a collectible: It was just in the trash.