Anticipation builds as the virtual gavel readies to drop on September 15th, igniting the start of the online bidding for an instrument that has garnered the moniker “Lost Lennon piano.” With a lineage intricately woven into the fabric of the art and music realms, estimations for the auction price gravitate between a substantial $2 to $3 million USD.
The spotlight is cast upon a seemingly unassuming 9-foot Baldwin Concert Grand Model D, hailing from the year 1929, its form adorned with visible imprints chronicling the passage of time.
Yet, its significance is resplendent, for it resonated beneath the fingers of none other than Lennon himself, orchestrating the composition of his timeless opus, the “Double Fantasy” album. Adorned with a bespoke brass plaque, a tribute from John and Yoko to their confidant Sam Green, a luminary in the realm of art auctions, the piano exudes a storied aura.
Selden Morgan, the Director of Sales and Fine Jewelry at the prestigious Alex Cooper Auctioneers, shares insights into the instrument’s narrative within a corporate communiqué surrounding the forthcoming sale. “The Lennon-Ono-Green-Warhol piano is a legendary musical instrument with a singular and well-documented provenance and direct ties to John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and Andy Warhol,” asserts Morgan, encapsulating the essence of the instrument’s journey.
An Extraordinary Legacy
Lennon’s procurement of the piano in 1978, followed by its constant presence during his creative endeavors, contributed to the visible signs of wear that carry his essence. Notable scars include enigmatic blemishes that seem to tell of ashtray accidents, markings in the veneer, and intriguing wear patterns upon the hammers. Despite these battle scars, the piano retains its tuneful resonance and will be tuned anew in preparation for its grand stage.
Post its tenure in the Lennon household, the piano embarked on a meandering odyssey.
Close companions of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Sam Green, an art dealer, and the couple often converged in the embrace of his domicile. Notably, Green was appointed by Lennon as custodian for their son Sean in the event of their mutual demise while Sean was yet a minor. In a gesture of profound significance, Lennon gifted the piano to Green in 1979, a year prior to his untimely demise in 1980. The brass plaque that adorns the piano pays homage to this sentiment: “For Sam / Love From Yoko and John / 1979.”
A Contested Journey
The piano’s “Lost Lennon” epithet was cemented in 2000 when Sam Green sought to reclaim the instrument.
Green’s legal pursuit in 2000, encompassing claims for damages and repossession, revolved around the piano’s alleged loan status at The New York Academy of Art. The contention posited that the Academy subsequently sold the instrument improperly, at an astonishingly modest $3,000.
According to legal documents, Green initially lent the piano to Andy Warhol, who placed it on display at his illustrious Interview magazine offices. Notably, these offices doubled as Warhol’s Factory location, amplifying the piano’s resonance within artistic circles. This connection gains further depth as Warhol was a co-founder of The New York Academy of Art.
Subsequent chapters saw the piano loaned once more to The Academy post Warhol’s demise in 1987. However, Green’s dissent emerged as he believed the school was amiss in permitting everyday practice upon the instrument, which he perceived as a misuse.
The Academy vehemently claimed the piano was bestowed as a gift. By the time litigation ensued, the piano had been traded for a mere $3,000 to a piano tuner and antique dealer, who then lucratively sold it for $100,000 to an auction dealer. Adding an ironic twist, the piano’s provenance unveils its sale as part of a bulk removal of “deaccessioned pianos” from the Academy’s repository.
Albeit, the lawsuit met dismissal in 2001, with Green’s demise in 2011.
In 2003, the auction dealer sold the piano to Mansoor Emral Shaool, incorporating it within a family trust. This trust was galvanized by the intent to endow a scholarship, leading to its eventual bestowal upon the Mercersburg Academy in 2018. The impending auction’s proceeds are earmarked to enrich the educational endeavors of the Mercersburg Academy, a distinguished private boarding school nestled in Pennsylvania.
The crescendo awaits as the live auction, orchestrated by Alex Cooper Auctioneers, unfurls its curtains in Towson, Baltimore County, on September 30th, with the bidding threshold poised at $1 million.
In a grand symphony of events, this marks the maiden occasion when the instrument steps into the public spotlight for a chance at new stewardship, epitomizing the harmonious convergence of historical significance and artistic resonance.