Text by Brook Mason, Architectural Digest
With the 90th birthday of Andy Warhol this year, his unsurpassed artistry is blanketing museums coast to coast. The Whitney Museum of American Art, for one, debuted “Andy Warhol—From A to B and Back Again” on November 10. At the same time, the Stanford University Cantor Arts Center is showcasing “Contact Warhol: Photography Without End,” whose curators drew on more than a staggering 3,600 Warhol contact sheets and negatives. On view are Warhol’s snaps of such personalities as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Michael Jackson, and even Bianca Jagger. Meanwhile, Warhol's “Shadows” is on display in a temporary gallery space in New York City's Chelsea—a show curated by Dia Art Foundation and funded by Calvin Klein.
In staging the first Warhol retrospective organized in the U.S. since 1989, the Whitney throws into relief the artist’s groundbreaking creativity. An established household name, the multifaceted artist, photographer, film director, producer, and more literally redefined the very role of the artist in society. (“I never wanted to be a painter,” Warhol once quipped. “I wanted to be a tap dancer.”) On view are some 350 of Warhol’s iconic creations, from his Campbell's Soup cans to a stunning 86 commissioned portraits. Perhaps best of all, the museum is screening 11 of his experimental films, among them Edie Sedgwick, dating from 1965.
In a nod to spiking Warhol fever, AD spoke with three people who can shed some light on the artist, and his enduring celebrity, from personal recollections.
Whitney deputy director and senior curator Donna De Salvo first met Warhol in 1986 as a curator at the Dia Art Foundation. “I had the idea to do an exhibition of works from 1960 to '62 when Warhol was still painting by hand,” she says. “I went several times at the Factory on West 33rd Street to meet with Warhol about the project. Andy was very interested in the idea and even found five to six early paintings that had been rolled up in storage,” De Salvo comments. “His answers to my questions were very straightforward, even self-effacing, and I was surprised by that. But then, you don’t really know what to expect when you meet someone who you only knew as a myth,” she adds.
Longtime Soho art dealer Jeffrey Deitch, who just opened an Ai Weiwei exhibition at his new 10,000-square-foot gallery in L.A. this past weekend, met Warhol early on. “We’d go to the auction house previews and his insight into new visual vocabularies of Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg and others was astonishingly perceptive,” says Deitch. “Andy was the most sophisticated, cultured person of his generation,” he adds. According to Deitch, Warhol was an incredibly intuitive collector as well, and at the same time had remarkable instincts when it came to acquiring real estate, such as his Montauk estate and Upper East Side townhouse. “He filled his home with superb Art Deco furniture,” recalls Deitch, who spent many a day at Warhol’s office where the “Board Room” was a mandatory stop for takeout lunches and brownies. “Above all, Andy was extraordinarily kind and thoughtful.”
Actress, philanthropist, fashion designer, and animal activist all rolled into one Cornelia Guest first met Warhol at the tender age of eight. “When Andy was downstairs sipping cocktails with my mother, he’d come up to my room and we’d crayon,” says Guest from her upstate farm, where she founded her Artemis Farm Rescue, which is dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of miniature horses and donkeys.
“Yes, Andy was so extraordinarily creative, and even though he did my portrait which is in the Whitney show, I didn’t think of him as an artist. He was really my buddy. I’d tell him about my dates. When I’d compete in the Hamptons Classic, Andy and Fred Hughes would sit in my mother’s box,” she says, looking back. “He was always there for me—and that was so very special.”
Feature Image: Ethel Scull 36 Times, 1963 by Andy Warhol. Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts/ARS New York