Andy Warhol’s star-studded photographs: ‘You learn a lot more about him as a person’ | Andy Warhol

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Olike Andy Warhol the first influencer of the modern world? The artist may have died two decades before social media turned the word into a job title, but Warhol’s prolific use of photography to capture a carefully curated life is said to have earned the artist millions of dollars. followers today.

The artist as influencer is one of the themes the Art Gallery of South Australia will explore at Adelaide Festival 2023 in March, in Andy Warhol & Photography: A Social Media. It will be the first exhibition in Australia to focus on the artist’s obsession with photography, drawing works by him and him from more than 30 public and private collections around the world.

More than 250 works, including experimental films, screen prints and paintings, will join the AGSA’s extensive 45-piece Warhol collection, with the central photographic component promising a candid glimpse into the New York lifestyle of the pop artist dotted of celebrities.

Warhol photographs of Keith Richards (left) and Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts at the 1977 photocall for the Rolling Stones Love You Live album cover in New York. Photography: Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts

AGSA curator Julie Robinson told Guardian Australia that the exhibition will go a long way to demonstrating why the artist, some 35 years after his death, remains so relevant and collectable. Earlier this year, her Shot Sage Blue Marilyn became the most expensive 20th-century work of art ever sold at auction, with a price of US$195 million eclipsing the previous record set by Les Femmes d’Alger de Pablo Picasso (version 0), sold for $179.4 million in 2015.

“We’re all very familiar with his pop art paintings and sculptures, but looking at his very public works, you don’t really get a sense of him as a person,” Robinson says of Warhol, who described himself as a “deeply superficial” human being.

“So by looking at these photographs, you learn a lot more about Andy Warhol as a person. He was an extraordinary person, but he could also be an extraordinarily ordinary person.

Like many of his iconic serigraphs, Warhol’s photography is imbued with the presence of celebrities. But glamor is surprisingly lacking in many images.

Photographs by Andy Warhol of Bianca Jagger and Halston at Halston in New York (from the Photographs portfolio, 1976-79).
Photographs by Andy Warhol of Bianca Jagger and Halston at Halston in New York, from the Photographs portfolio, 1976-79. Photography: Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts

Warhol once said that a good photograph is of a famous person doing something infamous. So think of Bianca Jagger shaving her armpit, or a cloudy-eyed Mick Jagger at the table with Warhol and William Burroughs, staring at the food in front of them with grim disinterest.

Muhammad Ali, Bob Dylan, Debbie Harry, John Lennon, Liza Minnelli, Lou Reed, Elizabeth Taylor – the superstars of the 60s, 70s and 80s all gravitated to Warhol’s infamous factory in midtown Manhattan, and a camera was always ready.

And for the last decade of the artist’s life, an Australian was at the heart of it all. In the mid-to-late 1980s, Henry Gillespie was the Australian editor of Warhol’s Interview magazine: the publication the artist co-founded in 1969 that continues to fill an ultra-cool niche of art and culture reporting. celebrity culture.

Debbie Harry, 1980, New York – in an Andy Warhol Polaroid
Debbie Harry, 1980, New York – in an Andy Warhol Polaroid. Photography: Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts

Gillespie, who grew up in the riverside town of Deniliquin, met Warhol in Manhattan in 1979 at the opening of the artist’s Seventies Portraits exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

“It was a crucial turning point in Warhol’s career because for the first time people began to regard him as a serious artist,” says Gillespie, who believes his status as an Australian in New York exerted a particular fascination for him. Warhol.

“‘Oh, an Aussie,’ he said when we were introduced, and then he pulled back a bit and gave kind of a hiccup and said, ‘I heard it takes 30 days to fly there “.”

Henry Gillespie with his portrait of Andy Warhol in the background
“I think he saw me as something exotic”: Henry Gillespie with Andy Warhol’s portrait of him in the background. Photography: Saul Steed

Gillespie remarked that 30 days of flying was more likely to land him on the moon, and soon the Aussie was a factory regular.

“Australia fascinated him. He loved the concept, which he couldn’t quite grasp, of great distances and flatness, of all the beautiful beaches and beautiful people,” Gillespie recalled.

“It was a time in New York when the Australian government was doing the ‘Put another shrimp on the barbie’ tourism campaign…it made everything very appealing and it fascinated him. Being Australian then had a real cachet; I think he saw me as something exotic.

Warhol became intrigued by Australian convicts and Australian rescuers. At one point he asked Gillespie if he could get some shots of criminals from downstairs.

Andy Warhol and Henry Gillespie
Andy Warhol and Henry Gillespie. Photography: Courtesy of Henry Gillespie

At the time of the artist’s unexpected death (Warhol died in 1987 aged 58 following surgery), Gillespie and the Australian philanthropic team of Victor and Loti Smorgon were arranging a visit from Warhol in Australia.

Gillespie and Loti Smorgon are the only two Australians Warhol ever painted.

Four Warhol portraits of Gillespie now reside in Australia: one at the AGSA and three at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra.

Gillespie says he feels deeply honored to have secured four, from an artist he has been fortunate enough to call a friend.

This “deeply superficial” character was perhaps what Warhol wanted audiences to believe, says Gillespie. “But that’s not who he really was. It was contrived…and behind it was incredible discipline and hard work. He was part of the firmament of New York.

Bianca Jagger, Liza Minnelli and Jacqueline Onassis in Liza's dressing room, New York
Andy Warhol’s photograph of Bianca Jagger, Liza Minnelli and Jacqueline Onassis in Liza’s dressing room. Photography: Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts

If Warhol had survived into the 21st century, Gillespie is convinced that the artist would have been in his element in the world of social influencers.

“He would be 94 on a Zimmer frame with a smartphone, and he would have absolutely broken everything. He would have loved the times we live in now.

This article was last modified on September 30, 2022. An earlier version incorrectly listed Henry Gillespie as editor of Interview magazine. He was the Australian editor of Interview magazine.

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