Even at the height of his success, the great pop artist never refused private commissions. We meet the man hunting down these gems including paintings of Trump Tower that Donald rejected
“I can show you my latest acquisition, which I’m very proud of,” says Paul Maréchal, the world’s foremost collector of what snobs might refer to as Warhol ephemera – copies of illustrations, brochures, posters and album covers commissioned by companies and clients. Maréchal is adamant that they are “works of art”. He whips out his phone and shows me a photo of a poster for Mademoiselle, a defunct Condé Nast publication (“The Magazine for Smart Young Women”). It’s a red, white and blue map of the US, hand-drawn, with potatoes in Idaho, film reel and grapes in California and a Statue of Liberty in New York.
Maréchal’s eyes bulge with enthusiasm as he describes how he found it for sale at a little auction house in Connecticut. “I’ve known only three examples of this poster. Two of them are in a private collection in Texas,” he explains. It was a snip at $4,000 (£3,000), and will shoot up in value once he adds it to the catalogue raisonné of Warhol’s commercial work that he has spent the past two decades compiling.
A dapper French Canadian in his early 50s, Maréchal, whose day job is curating art for a corporation in his native Montreal, owns more than 700 such pieces. They include Christmas cards for Tiffany, copies of Interview magazine – which filed for bankruptcy this month after a nearly 50-year run – and a medical booklet on rheumatoid arthritis featuring an ink drawing of a gnarled hand. At the Picasso Museum in Málaga, where we meet, a large Warhol retrospective features more than 150 items from his collection, the largest group ever to go on public display.
Maréchal started collecting in 1996. At the time, he says, Warhol’s reputation was in a kind of limbo. “Art historians and collectors didn’t know much what to do with his work – was he just a society portrait painter, an artist who created two or three famous artworks, but the rest was uninteresting? So in the early years, I could buy anything, I had no competition.” That soon changed, however, after Maréchal began to publish records of what he had acquired, building a market in his wake.