‘Cash for Warhol’ prank won’t go away

 Signs popping up around Drexel offering you cash for your Warhol are the work of Boston artist Geoff Hargadon. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Signs popping up around Drexel offering you cash for your Warhol are the work of Boston artist Geoff Hargadon. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

A new billboard in West Philadelphia is offering you quick cash in exchange for your original pieces of art by Andy Warhol.

It looks like a so-called “bandit” sign – those signs that get stapled to telephone poles and chain link fences offering you cash for your gold, or cash for your home. But instead, it reads “Cash For Your Warhol” promising a “Quick Settlement” with “No Questions Asked,” and a phone number.

It’s an elaborate prank that has been going on for six years, perpetuated by Geoff Hargadon, a photographer from Massachusetts. He started seeing bandit signs around 2009, in the depths of the recession.

“I called some of the numbers that were offering to buy houses for cash,” said Hargadon. “I asked if people actually sell their houses to a number on a telephone pole. They said yes. That’s why there are so many of them out there.”

The idea of “Cash for Warhol” popped into his head, and he thought it was funny – as a joke on the desperation of consumer culture, on the 1% who suddenly might need to liquidate their art commodity portfolios, and on the popular legacy of Andy Warhol. 

Since then it has snowballed, appearing in cities all over the country. People soliciting CFYW stickers and signs in the mail did Hardagon’s distribution work for him. He did not believe the joke would go on this long, but people keep responding to it.

Like this person, who left a message on the “Cash for your Warhol” voice mail:

A new art gallery in Fishtown, called LMNL, asked Hargadon if he would want to put together an exhibition. Opening April 10, the show will include all 24 variations on the sign, photography of signage in situ, and a selection of audio phone messages from people responding to the sign, many of whom claim to own a Warhol they want to unload.

“The problem is that anybody who has a Warhol thinks it’s worth a million bucks,” said Hargadon, referring to a fickle, flooded Warhol market. “You know, something he wrote on a napkin. They guy was pretty prolific. He did a lot of stuff.”

The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh has bought “Cash For Your Warhol” signs for its collection. Andy, doubtlessly, would have been tickled.

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