Hidden Stories of Iconic Lost Lennon-Ono-Green-Warhol Piano

In Featured PAG Members, History, Old School, Pianos, Restoration

Preservation Artisans Guild Member Kendall Ross Bean and Piano Finders co-founder, Karen Earle Lile, have been released from NDAs this month, and are now allowed to reveal previously undisclosed details about the history surrounding the legendary Lost Lennon-Ono-Green-Warhol Piano. The captivating piano, steeped in the legacies of John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Sam Green, and Andy Warhol, is set to make waves at the upcoming auction, anticipated to fetch an astounding $3 million or more.

Kendall Ross Bean Bean and Karen Earle Lile established Piano Finders in 1982. One of the side benefits of being a piano rebuilder is that Bean has taken over 20,000 photographs of all the pianos he has inspected and created diagrams documenting the manufacturing designs of all the pianos he has rebuilt. Lile has completed over 3,400 piano appraisals over the years based on Bean’s piano inspections. Last year, their expertise drew the attention of Alex Cooper Auctioneers, who introduced them to the owner of a very special piano. They were entrusted with appraising and investigating a rare 1929 Baldwin concert grand piano.

This particular instrument bore a cherished plaque with the inscription: “For Sam/ Love From Yoko and John/1979,” initiating a riveting journey of discovery.

The first stage of the process involves Bean documenting the condition of the piano with photographs and notations about its original design and its condition. In this case, it was also important for Bean to authenticate the origin of the piano, as an additional confirmation that this was a 1929 concert grand made in the Baldwin Factory.

What commenced as a simple flight to Pennsylvania became an enthralling detective saga, as Kendall delved into the details of the history that the piano revealed by itself. An initial report was written, but more research needed to be done to authenticate and reveal the piano’s provenance. Karen delved into the piano’s provenance over a period of several months. Her efforts led her to rare Yale manuscripts and archives, photographing 1,100 documents and accessing hidden-away attics of New York civil record buildings.

The piano’s narrative unfolds with ties to music luminaries and pop art icons. Originally gifted by Lennon and Ono to their close friend and confidante, Sam Green, former Director of the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania, the piano bears a touching inscription: “For Sam/ Love From Yoko and John/ 1979.” John Lennon had acquired the 9’ satin ebony concert grand Baldwin from the Baldwin Factory Store in New York City in 1978, subsequently presenting it as a private gesture to Green.

The piano’s journey continued as it found its way to Green’s Fire Island cottage, bearing witness to the intricate connections between Lennon, Ono, and Green. Notably, the piano found itself under the ownership of renowned artist Andy Warhol, who cherished it within the walls of his fourth Factory on Madison Avenue and 33rd Street in New York City, also housing Interview magazine and Warhol Studios.

However, a twist of fate ensued when Green lent the piano to the New York Academy of Art in 1987, unaware that it would later be sold without his consent, sparking the controversy surrounding the “Lost Lennon Piano.” Green’s legal pursuit was abandoned in 2001, leaving a lingering mystery surrounding the piano’s fate.

In 2018, the piano found a new home at Mercersburg Academy, a prestigious private school in Pennsylvania. In 2021, Alex Hernan, Director of Furniture at Alex Cooper Auctioneers, collaborated with Mercersburg Academy and the donor to unveil the piano’s provenance. Hernan enlisted the expertise of Piano Finders to assess its value and historical significance, leading to the upcoming landmark auction.

“The Lennon-Ono-Green-Warhol Piano stands as a testament to an era that defined pop art and rock music, symbolizing the presence of iconic figures like Andy Warhol, John Lennon, and Yoko Ono,” states Karen E. Lile, in the official 268-page Provenance Report.

Alex Cooper Auctioneers, a venerable auction house founded in 1924, is proud to announce the imminent sale of the Lennon-Ono-Green-Warhol Piano. This unparalleled musical artifact will go under the hammer at a live auction on Saturday, September 30th, at 10 a.m. ET, hosted at Alex Cooper Auctioneers, 908 York Rd., Townson, MD. Bidding commences online on Friday, September 15th, 5 p.m. ET. This historic event marks the first time the public will have the chance to own this extraordinary piano, presenting a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for avid collectors.

Proceeds from the sale will be used to create a scholarship fund for Mercersburg Academy students of Mercersburg Academy in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania.

Founded in 1924, Alex Cooper Auctioneers stands as a prominent auction house in the United States, boasting a diverse range of offerings including real estate, collectibles, jewelry, and rugs. With galleries located in Washington, D.C., and Towson, MD, Alex Cooper Auctioneers continues to redefine the auction experience. For more information, visit alexcooper.com.

A partnership founded in 1982 by Kendall Ross Bean and Karen Lile, Piano Finders appraises, inspects, rebuilds, and brokers pianos. Karen Lile researches piano provenance and Kendall Bean authenticates piano manufacturing origins. Piano Finders is a proud member of The Preservation Artisans Guild.