Last Saturday, at the inaugural Art Bash! fundraiser, a new annual gala inspired by some of history's most famous art parties, the Art Gallery of Ontario unveiled 10 Andy Warhol prints – the entire, iconic Campbell's Soup I series – freshly gifted to the gallery. Fitting, since the evening's theme was the Factory, a fête in homage to the doyen of Pop Art and his Manhattan studios, then, the centre of the art universe.
The works were donated by Toronto-based philanthropists Jim and Margaret Fleck. The Flecks purchased the works from the man himself on a trip to New York in the mid-1970s when a collector-friend and his wife had commissioned a portrait from the artist. Mr. Fleck remembers the Factory was, well, factory-like, "a large space with high ceilings," and there was Mr. Warhol, whipping around snapping pictures of his subject.
Mr. Warhol was "otherworldly," Mr. Fleck recalls. He carried an aura around, already with his hallmark shock white hair. He spoke in monosyllables, but Mr. Fleck recollects thinking he was perfectly pleasant. An afternoon they wouldn't forget.
"The AGO is the best place for them to be," said Mr. Fleck, a trustee of the museum. He is happy also that they'll still be able to visit the artworks.
"The complete, vibrant set donated by Jim and Margaret Fleck is the only one in a public collection in Canada," Art Gallery of Ontario director and CEO Stephan Jost says, "making it a highly significant addition to the AGO's collection of prints and drawings."
Campbell's Soup I, all 10 flavours, will go on view alongside other new acquisitions in the New Year.