Andy Warhol and Louis Brandeis live again in Cooley art collection

By Paul Janczewski

Legal News

It's a pretty safe bet that finding Andy Warhol and Thomas M. Cooley Law School in the same article would be a rare thing.

But when you add the name of the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis to the mix, it makes all the sense in the world.

On November 24, a portrait of Brandeis, a Warhol screen print from 1980, was unveiled at the law school's Cooley Center lobby in downtown Lansing, adding another piece to the school's growing gallery of artwork.

"Art broadens the student experience and stimulates creativity," said William Weiner, a professor and associate dean for International Programs at Cooley.

Charles Palmer, professor and international art law expert at Cooley, found the painting after a long search. He is a huge Warhol fan, and said the portrait of Brandeis ties in well with Cooley's mission.

"Brandeis is a person law school students should emulate," he said. "He said law is an instrument to serve people."

Both Weiner and Palmer were speakers at the unveiling, and both were instrumental in acquiring the portrait.

"He was a fascinating person," Palmer said of the Supreme Court legend.

Brandeis, born in 1856, graduated from high school when he was 14 years old, entered Harvard Law School and graduated top in his class in 1877 as valedictorian.

"He had the highest grade point average in the law school's history," Palmer said, noting that the record stood for 80 years.

Brandeis entered private practice in Boston and established himself as the people's attorney.

Palmer also said Brandeis was a "rabble-rouser" who took on wealthy J.P. Morgan, a notorious financier, and defeated his efforts to form a monopoly with the New Haven Railroad.

In 1916, Brandeis was appointed justice of the U.S. Supreme Court by President Woodrow Wilson, becoming the first Jewish chief justice. Palmer said Brandeis achievements included his rulings on the rights of privacy, which was the model for later tort law.

Brandeis died in 1941.

Andrew Warhola was born in 1928 in Pittsburgh, and graduated from the Carnegie Institute of Technology, now Carnegie Mellon University, majoring in pictorial design.

After graduation, he moved to New York and worked as a commercial artist and as an illustrator for several magazines.

"He drew shoe ads," said Palmer.

In the 1950s, he shortened his name to Warhol and gained fame, winning commendations from prestigious art groups. A decade later, Warhol created his image as a pop artist, creating paintings of Campbell's soup cans and Marilyn Monroe.

In the 1980s, Warhol exhibited his "Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century."

It included portraits of French actress Sarah Bernhardt; physicist Albert Einstein; psychologist Sigmund Freud; vaudeville and film comedians Chico, Groucho and Harpo Marx; Israel Prime Minister Golda Meir; American composer George Gershwin; and others.

And Louis Brandeis.

There were five original sets of paintings, and 200 print portfolios made of each. Warhol painted the portraits using photographs of the subjects.

When asked by a reporter why these 10 were chosen, Warhol gave a mysterious non-answer by saying "I liked the faces," the article said.

When first exhibited, Warhol's 10 portraits drew mixed reviews, according to reports, called vulgar and without artistic contribution and full of commercialism by some, but celebrated by others.

The mission statement for displaying art at Cooley centers around three criteria - it had to be by either a Michigan artist, have a legal theme or have a connection with the campus.

Weiner said 39 pieces of art have been collected through a president's grant and cash donations from alumni and faculty. Seventeen pieces of art have come as gifts to the law school, he said.

The art includes paintings, sculptures, prints and photographs.

Weiner said the school was looking for a piece to represent torts and business, and since Palmer teaches a class in art law, he was asked to look for a piece to fit that description.

Palmer then went on a quest and discovered Warhol's Louis Brandeis following a long search.

"I was surprised we found one," Weiner said. Besides being very expensive, "It's not easy to find one." He declined to say what the Brandeis portrait cost.

"We had to keep our eyes open for one we could afford," Palmer said.

The portrait Cooley obtained is No.147 of the 200 prints made.

"It's a very strong piece, with very attractive colors," Palmer said.

He said the piece is not only a Warhol, but also incorporates Brandeis and his important legal work.

James Newton was one of two-dozen people at the Warhol unveiling. A 1983 Cooley graduate and an attorney with Jeffries and Newton, he is also on Cooley's art collection committee.

He said they were trying to track down this specific piece "from day one."

Newton said it was "fulfilling" to get a Warhol that fits into Cooley's criteria.

"This is one of the more important pieces" we have, he said, adding that it gives "credibility" to the collection.

Published: Thu, Dec 3, 2009


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