Prized piece of art added to law school's 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 Nov. 24, a portrait of Brandeis, a Warhol screen print from 1980, was unveiled at the 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, professor and associate dean for In-

ternational 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. They spoke about Cooley's quest for fine art, Brandeis' contributions to law, and Warhol's history and reasons for painting Brandeis in the first place.

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

Born in 1856, he graduated from high school when he was 14 years old, entered Harvard Law School graduating in 1877 top in his class 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 Carnegie Institute of Technology, now Carnegie Mellon University, majoring in pictorial design. He moved to New York and worked as a commercial artist and 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 developed his image as a pop artist, creating paintings of Campbell's soup cans and Marilyn Monroe.

Palmer said those Marilyn Monroe paintings drew him to Warhol.

"He called his studio 'The Factory,'" Palmer said.

At some point, Palmer said a woman walked into Warhol's studio and fired a bullet from a gun that went through a number of Marilyn Monroe portraits - right through the forehead - that Warhol had stacked against a wall. "Those painting have become some of the most valuable Warhols," Palmer said.

It was not his last brush with a woman with a gun. In the late 1960s, a lady walked into Warhol's Factory and shot the artist in a near-fatal attack.

"This shooting did not receive much publicity because Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated the next day," Palmer said.

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; Chico, Groucho and Harpo Marx; Israel Prime Minister Golda Meir; and American composer George Gershwin. And Louis Brandeis.

Warhol had never met any of these people, because they were dead, according to an article from the Contemporary Jewish Museum. The article said 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.

Warhol died in 1987 following routine gall bladder surgery. Palmer speculates it was a case of medical malpractice, but adds that no evidence exists to either support or refute his theory.

Palmer said he became so enamored by a Warhol painting that he placed it on the cover of the first art law journal he put out. "He and his art were always colorful, and Warhol was an interesting person," Palmer said.

Weiner said a 1978 Cooley alumnus, Gordon Boardman, presented one of his paintings to Cooley, called "Trifurcatedly Separate But Equal." It's a very large work of abstract expressionism. Boardman retired as an attorney in 1993 to devote his time to painting, and is described as not a lawyer who painted, but as a "painter who happened to be a lawyer."

Weiner said the art was unveiled in 2005, and President and Dean Don LeDuc was so impressed he asked Weiner to ob-

tain more art to display among the four Cooley campuses.

"He gave us a grant and we started with our serious collection efforts," Weiner said.

The charge centered around three criteria - it had to be by either a Michigan artist, have a legal theme or have a connection with the campus.

Since then, Weiner said 39 pieces of art have been collected through the 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. Besides Boardman's abstract painting, the lobby also features a wood carving, a marble carving and a craftsman table.

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.

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.

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 the 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.

Now, it's easy to see how Andy Warhol, Cooley Law School, and Justice Brandeis al fit nicely together.


Published: Wed, Dec 2, 2009