Andy Warhol, Bob Dylan and Elvis

My friend Troy over at The Mystery Train Elvis Blog took exception to something I wrote in the ElvisBlog article three weeks ago.  In a pictorial feature on Elvis’ movie Flaming Star, I showed six Andy Warhol silkscreens created from one of the movie’s publicity photos of Elvis.  Troy found it inexplicable that I dismissed the Warhol works as not art.

Actually, what I said was that they didn’t look like art to me.  I have no problem that the rest of the world considers them art. However, I’ve always heard that art was in the eye of the beholder, and I’m sorry, but I just don’t get the Warhol Elvis images.  They seem drab and simplistic, and I don’t like the repetition of the same idea in so many pieces.  Here’s one more Warhol Elvis creation I missed in the article.  Even more repetition.


Troy also mentioned in his blog article that he had seen Warhol’s “Triple Elvis” at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond.  I suspect that seeing the real work close up makes a much more favorable impression on you than does a small internet photo.  So, maybe someday I’ll see one and change my mind.

Out of curiosity, I Googled “Warhol Triple Elvis Virginia Museum Fine Arts” to learn a bit more.  Then I switched the search to Google Images.  I do this often.  The standard Google Web search is best when hunting specific information.  But Images search is best if you enjoy going to unusual websites.  You just click on an interesting Elvis picture and you never know what you might find.  That’s how I found a most interesting story about Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol, and one of his Elvis paintings.  It was written by Fred Bal on one of his six blogs.



In 1965, the careers of Bob Dylan and Andy Warhol were kicking into high gear.  They were both in New York City, so, it’s no surprise they would team up on a project.  Dylan came over to Warhol’s famous Factory studio for what he called his “screen test.”  Actually, Warhol made a filmed portrait of Dylan – a 15-minute black-and-white study in stillness, silence, and emptiness.  (I probably wouldn’t find that to be art, either.)

In Warhol’s studio at that time was his silkscreened painting known as either “Silver Elvis” or “Double Elvis.”  Supposedly, Dylan decided he wanted the “Double Elvis” as his payment for his screen test.  After some haggling, Warhol reluctantly gave in.  Two of Dylan’s friends quickly hustled the painting down the freight elevator before Warhol could change his mind.

 Photo by Nat Finkelstein

Dylan’s people strapped this painting to the top of a station wagon and drove off.   Fortunately, the “Double Elvis” was not damaged.  They probably didn’t realize just how valuable their cargo was (or would be someday), or they never would have taken the chance.

In the late 60s, Warhol started hearing rumors that Dylan had banished the “Double Elvis” to a closet, or hung it upside down, or used it as a dart board.  According to the rumors, Dylan now harbored a disdain for Warhol, after mutual friend Edie Sedgewick suffered a drug-induced death.  Warhol has written, “Dylan didn’t like me… he blamed me for Edie’s drugs.”

What Dylan actually did with the “Double Elvis” is very weird.  He traded it to his manager, Albert Grossman, for a couch.  That’s right – a couch !   Years Later, Grossman’s widow picked up a cool $750,000 for “Double Elvis.”  I hope Dylan liked his couch.

One indication that Andy Warhol’s Elvis silk-screens have reached iconic status is the fact that other creative people have Photoshopped them.  Here is one that was obviously inspired by the rumor that Dylan used to throw darts at his Warhol Elvis picture.


This is one you can probably do yourself without Photoshop if you have a couple of $20 bills.


And finally, here is one that Troy at The Mystery Train blog and I can both agree on.

This is not art !!!

©  2010    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved

Elvis, Elvis Presley, and Graceland are registered trademarks of Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.


2 responses to “Andy Warhol, Bob Dylan and Elvis

  1. Pingback: Bob Dylan Traded a $750,000 Andy Warhol Painting for a Couch: It ‘Was a Stupid Thing to Do’ - 247AceCast

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