Before “alternative rock” became a mainstream category, musicians Lou Reed and John Cale paved the way for the subculture/genre with the quintessential subterannean 1960s band, The Velvet Underground. Pop star Andy Warhol was not only the band’s manager and producer but he also created the 1967 album cover for “The Velvet Underground & Nico” which features a now iconic ripe banana. (Early copies included a tab on the stem that when peeled revealed a fleshy-colored fruit.) This year, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts gave Apple Inc. the okay to reproduce the banana image (Warhol didn’t draw the banana, it was taken from “an advertisement in the public domain”) on iPhone and iPad cases and sleeves ($59.95). The Velvets broke up in 1972, but they’ve reunited to collectively sue Warhol’s Foundation claiming it’s illegal to license the logo without the band’s “sponsorship or approval.” It shouldn’t really come as a surprise for the band that a Manhattan federal court judge ruled in Warhol’s favor. As Reed once said about Warhol’s influence: “As a consequence of him (Warhol) being the producer, we’d just walk in and set up and do what we always did and no one would stop it because Andy was the producer.”
The Warhol Foundation gives grants to institutions that support artists, and supports “efforts to promote the health, welfare and first amendment rights of artists.” On average, the Foundation makes more than $2.5 million a year licensing various images, but that number is bound to rise this year, banana or not. In addition to a retrospective exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (which has a bountiful gift shop), there are a number of Warhol products for purchase to commemorate the 25th anniversary of his death. Cosmetics company NARS is selling a limited-edition “Silver Factory” collection (29 pieces of make-up at Sephora stores) that features Warhol’s self-portraits on eye-shadow and the lips of Factory girl Edie Sedgwich – the subject of Lou Reed’s song “Femme Fatale” (a Warhol suggestion) – on a can of lip gloss.