A Baldwin grand piano which passed through the hands of two of the most influential artists of the 20th century, John Lennon and Andy Warhol, will go on auction in September at Alex Cooper Auctioneers in Townson, Maryland, according to the Baltimore Banner.
John Lennon bought the Concert Grand Model D Piano in 1978 from the Baldwin Factory Store in New York City, according to ACA. The following year he gave the instrument to his friend, the art dealer and curator Sam Green, who organized Andy Warhol’s first American museum exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. A plaque that read “For Sam Love From John And Yoko 1979” was added just above the Baldwin logo that sits above the center of the piano’s keys.
Green was close to both Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono. The couple would often spend time at Green’s home on Fire Island, where Lennon would play the piano and write songs during the couple’s visits, some of which wound up on Lennon’s 1980 album with Ono Double Fantasy.
A few years later, in 1983, Green lent the piano to Warhol, who displayed in prominently at the Interview magazine offices in New York City.
In 1988, after being housed in the Interview offices, Green loaned the piano to the New York Academy of Art, which was cofounded by Warhol, for use during “special events.” For Green, that turned out to be an unfortunate decision. When, in 2000, he discovered the piano was being “misused” and played by students every day, he asked that the piano be returned.
But the school was no longer in possession of the piano. They had sold it, along with a collection of other “deaccessioned pianos” that were in the school’s basement, to a piano tuner named Harold Katz for a meager $3,000.
Green sued the school, which argued that Green had donated the piano, not lent it, for $1.6 million.
The piano was eventually found, bought from Katz by an Alabama man named Buddy Bain, for around $100,000, according to the New York Post, and Green’s lawsuit dismissed. Eventually the piano wound up at the Mercerberg Academy, a college-prep boarding school in Philadelphia.
While the piano visibly shows the wear and tear of its travels, dings in the enamel, a circle melted in the finish, possibly from an ash tray or oil lamp, the auction house says the instrument is playable and will be tuned before it’s sold. Bidding opens Saturday, September 30 with an estimated price of between $2 million–$3 million.