Piano Once Owned by Andy Warhol, John Lennon and Yoko Ono Up for Bid

Via Alex Cooper Auctions:

John Lennon & Yoko Ono purchased this 1929 piano from the Baldwin showroom in New York, NY in 1978. It belonged to John Lennon for one year before it was gifted in private, without newspaper coverage, to Samuel Green, a close and dear friend who was included in John Lennon’s Last Will & Testament dated 1979. In a letter from Sam Green, he states that John and Yoko gifted him their beloved concert grand piano “partly because of our long friendship and partly because I had helped them to acquire several important art pieces and this was a way to show their gratitude.” This piano was not only a grand gesture, but also a heart-felt gift. The brass plaque engraved on the fallboard says it all, "For Sam Love From Yoko and John 1979."

In 1980, Samuel Green had the piano moved to his home on Fire Island, NY. Lennon and Ono were frequent visitors to Fire Island where Green owned several cottages. Ono thought the creative atmosphere on the island would help inspire John’s song writing for their new album, later titled “Double Fantasy”. In a handwritten letter, Green wrote “John came regularly to my home until he died and played and probably composed on the piano. He often played the piano just to have fun.”

On December 8th, 1980 John Lennon was tragically murdered outside of his apartment building, The Dakota, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. This was a tragedy for his family and intimate friends, as well as his fans, who gathered outside immediately afterwards, and days and years later, still mourning his death.

This piano was present in the private lives of John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Samuel Green, and Andy Warhol. It is familiarly known as the Lennon-Ono-Green-Warhol piano. The piano has one of the most interesting provenances on record because of its celebrity-on-celebrity value, spanning music, art, and influential social circles in a pivotal time in cultural history. In 1983 Sam Green loaned the piano to Andy Warhol’s Interview Magazine office, The Factory. It stayed there until 1986 and was played during notable social events with celebrities. In 1983 Andy Warhol co-founded New York Academy of Art.

Due to Sam Green’s close relationship with Andy Warhol, he joined the Board of Directors at New York Academy of Art in 1986. In 1987, Green loaned the piano to New York Academy of Art to be used for special events and creative outlets. In 2000, New York Academy of Art sold the piano without Green's consent. This scandal was widely publicized as “The Lost Lennon Piano.” Sam Green filed a $1.6M lawsuit in the New York State Supreme Court, seeking the return of his extraordinarily valuable piano, claiming that the piano was a loan to the Academy and not a gift. In a letter to the Academy dated June 4, 1999, Green wrote "Actually, no one but John (Lennon) and I knew how valuable and unique this piano was. It could be compared to the Stradivarius Violin. It was the last of an advanced technology to be used in American pianos before the crash of 1929."

The lawsuit was dropped in 2001 after the court determined the piano was a gift. The Academy sold the piano without legal repercussions. Green’s legal pursuit of the piano was abandoned, but there was still a lingering mystery surrounding its whereabouts. The piano changed hands over the years. In 2003 it was acquired by the Mansoor E. Shaool family in Hagerstown, MD. In 2018 It became part of the Shaool family trust and was donated to Mercersburg Academy in Mercersburg, PA, with a deed of trust that the proceeds of its sale would create a scholarship fund for the school.

In 2022, Mercersburg Academy, with the help of Alex Cooper Auctioneers, hired Karen Lile of Piano Finders to authenticate and research the piano’s history and provenance. Karen Lile and business partner Kendall Ross Bean, traveled to Mercersburg Academy with Alex Cooper, where they performed a thorough inspection of the piano, and began the provenance research. Lile spent three months in the Spring of 2022 researching the provenance and genealogy of the “Lost Lennon Piano.” She uncovered many undisclosed details about this historical piano. On August 5, 2022, Karen Lile established a Fair Market Appraisal Value on the Lennon-Ono-Green-Warhol piano at $5,012,500. Piano Finders has completed over 3,400 piano appraisals. They are considered one of the premier experts and historians in their field.

Proceeds from this auction will create a scholarship fund at Mercersburg Academy in the Shaool name.