The image that so outraged the auctioneers - and, more significantly, the guardians of the Warhol Foundation set up to protect the memory and exploit the image of the great man - was a shot of the inside of Warhol's medicine cabinet (seen for the first time above). It was bad enough that beneath it, and on row after row of shelves to the side, was a veritable drug store of endless varieties of mouth-wash, vitamins, hair-removers, lip-pencils, exfoliants and creams for dry skin. But inside the cabinet were phials of anti-ageing elixirs and unguents, three of which bore the names of the heart-transplant specialist, Christian Barnard.
Thus was revealed the inner angst of the man with the passionless features. It was not just that desiccated skin lay beneath the silver wig he never publicly removed (he kept 10 of them in a box in the New York apartment - along with a canvas corset to hold his gut in). "It's not who you are that counts, it's what you think you are," he once famously said. But beneath the hard drugs, studied homosexual responses and the blank nihilism, the medicine cabinet revealed that Andy Warhol saw the skull beneath the skin.
With the 10th anniversary of his death, Warhol is back in fashion, and the price of his work is rising once again. His Campbell's Soup Can was this month named in the BBC Millennium project as one of the 100 seminal artistic works of the 20th century. Yet if it is important, there is something curiously emotionless about his work, whether in his transference to canvas of misaligned photographic images of Coca-Cola bottles or multi-coloured Marilyn Monroes or in his interminable movies. "If you want to know about Andy Warhol just look at the surface of my paintings ... there I am. There's nothing behind it," Warhol once said.
David Gamble, for one, did not believe him, and chased the ghost of the artist among the personal effects of Warhol's East 66th Street brownstone home. The results, on show in London's Groucho Club from 29 January, are revealing. The sequence begins with the cool minimalism of a lobby furnished with Art Nouveau lamps and Art Deco table and chairs - the lobby was as far as many of his friends ever got to go, especially after Warhol threw Jed Johnson, his final serious boyfriend, out of the house. It then moves through an aseptic, lifeless, Art Deco living room - with not a plant or flower in sight - to a parlour claustrophobic with heavy drapes and Victorian Egyptiana. But the inner core is the bare un-modernised basement kitchen and the en-suite bathroom off Warhol's bedroom. These were the private parts to which no other penetrated. "Sotheby's experts had gone through everything," Gamble recalls, "but they had ignored this. It was untouched and the heart of Andy Warhol."
The great man's acolytes were unnerved by the intrusion. It seemed a violation of the detachment that was at the heart of his art. The instinct for distance, which allowed Warhol to turn everyday objects like Brillo Pad boxes into art - mass-produced images that one critic epitomised as "so empty of content, so content with their emptiness" - also explained his inability to connect deeply with individuals. He selected, manipulated and dropped friends from his sad entourage of freaks in the same way that he did the exquisite pieces in his huge collection of watches, jewellery and furniture, most of it - despite the odd Lichtenstein, Maxfield Parrish or American primitive painting - relentlessly Art Deco objets, picked up cheaply in Paris when it was unfashionable in the 1960s. Some of it he lived with, but the overwhelming majority he put in storage, drawing what his manager, Frederick Hughes, called a Byzantine delight from his knowledge that he possessed the undisplayed pieces.
But there was something else that unnerved the members of Warhol's circle. "They kept on saying, over and over, that Andy shouldn't have died," David Gamble recollects. Certainly no one - including Warhol himself - had expected him to. He had gone into hospital for a routine gall-bladder operation. It seemed nothing after the drama of being shot in the stomach by a misanthropic feminist. But Warhol died in his sleep while on a drip. "His friends were spooked. They didn't want to stay with me into the evening as I continued working in the apartment," the photographer recalls.
Fred Hughes was fixated upon another thing, too. Gamble photographed him sitting in a Gothic chair in Warhol's studio, The Factory, where the svelte, besuited and Mephistophelean manager refused to be pictured with any kind of image of the dead man in the background. But if the ghost of the artist lingered, Gamble, to his great dissatisfaction, could not track it down.
So great was David Gamble's sense of something being unresolved in the assignment that when the post-production advertising company, Adplates, offered him its facilities to stage the Groucho exhibition, the photographer decided to superimpose a silk-screen spectre of Warhol upon the scenes. Working with Adplates' technicians using a Quantel Paintbox computer system, the photographer conjured images of the dead man to haunt the photographs of his living spaces. Two-dimensional reconstructions of the pop artist sit ill-at-ease in the Art Deco room and on an Egyptian throne in the parlour. His face has even mysteriously etched itself on to the cover of the magazine that Hughes holds in his hands and which, on the original, remained unhelpfully blank.
It is not Gamble's first venture into the art of re-creation. On the original session, he persuaded Sotheby's to return to the apartment crucial pieces of jewellery to create symbolic commentaries within some of his photographs. Gamble hung from a crystal lamp before an ornate framed mirror a number of objects that spoke of Warhol - a diamond-encrusted platinum tiara to speak of the gay sensibility the artist brought into the mainstream, a watch to recall his obsession with time, and a gold cross studded with rubies. "After the shooting Andy became quite religious," says Gamble, who believes he found evidence of Warhol's return to his native Slovak Catholicism in a haunting Mexican crucifix elsewhere in the apartment.
It was perhaps a tenuous association, but one of the striking things about Andy Warhol's home was the paucity of clues to the man's complex and, Gamble senses, ultimately tragic character. There was so little that spoke of him among the fine pieces that filled the rooms as clinically as those of a museum. "Then I asked where his wigs were. They produced a box of them - 10, all identically platinum." He also came across a pair of Warhol's Milky-Boy-Kid spectacles. With them, he created a series of still-life photographs, arranging the wig on a stand in front of two of Warhol's Egyptian statues; before them, he placed Warhol's watch, and a handful of dollar bills. One statue was of a mortal and the other of a god. Beside Rameses, one of the 12 kings of Ancient Egypt, stood Isis, goddess of fecundity, yet also the wife and sister of Osiris, the ruler of the underworld and judge of the dead.
Ask Gamble about the rectitude of such manipulation and he avoids the question, just as he is coy about the can of Campbell's Tomato Bisque standing on his shelf, which bears an uncanny resemblance to the one on the draining board in his photograph of Warhol's kitchen. In any case, the still life photographs have now been transmogrified into a series of neon images in which the Warhol wig appears in pink, blue, green and yellow in affectionate parody of the famous images of Marilyn. The borderline between photography and art has become more elusive than ever. One can only assume that Andy Warhol would probably have approved
John Walsh returns next week
Gamble's photograph of the hair-removers lip-pencils, exfoliants and Christian Barnard anti-ageing elixers and unguents in Warhol's medicine cabinet (above) upset Sotheby's and the Warhol Foundation. The manipulated image of the artist sits ill at ease among the Art Deco in his living room (main picture)
Gamble discovered dessicated skin under the trademark platinum wig (left with other Warhol artefacts) - Warhol kept zq10 identical wigs in a box with his canvas corset; computer-generated face of the artist on the wall of the warehouse (left) where he stored some of his eclectic collection of objects
Warhol's own Campbell's soup can (far left), shows signs of wear and tear; the artist's manager, Frederick Hughes, sitting at the Factory studio (left), refused to be pictured with any image of Warhol, so Gamble etched one in. Right, `Warhol' amidst the drapes and Egyptiana in his parlourReuse content