New Exhibition focuses on Andy Warhol’s media empire
When people think of Andy Warhol, they usually think of his original artwork. But Warhol was constantly looking for different ways to express himself and to tell stories about and talk to the famous people he surrounded himself with.
A new exhibit opening Saturday at the Andy Warhol Museum looks at media giant Warhol.
“Andy Warhol’s Social Network: Interview, Television and Portraiture” looks at the interlude between Warhol’s longest-running project, Interview Magazine. His TV shows, “Fashion, TV Warhol” and “Fifteen Minutes of Warhol”. and his portraits of famous and influential people.
“It shows you that Warhol was really tapping into a part of youth culture and was kind of ahead of it,” said Jessica Beck, the museum’s senior curator. This is also a result of Warhol’s fascination with celebrities.
The focus of this exhibition is 204 issues of “Interview” magazine, which were published from 1969 to 1987, the year of Warhol’s death. It was his longest venture and continues to this day. Displayed in chronological order, Warhol’s permanent magazine collection has never been exhibited in its entirety.
“What I find fascinating is that the original magazine (produced in black and white) has this underground film effect,” Beck said. It is also a cross between these 60s magazines at the beginning of Rolling Stone and also has pornographic undertones.
But then the magazine underwent a drastic change in format that attracted many people to the “interview”, readers as well as subjects.
“In the ’70s, Warhol’s social network is changing and he’s becoming more connected to the fashion world — Halston, Liza Minnelli, Bianca Jagger, and you see these more dynamic covers,” Beck said.
To create those dynamic covers, Warhol turned to fellow artist Richard Bernstein, who became a staple of the New York social scene and Studio 54 club culture. According to his nephew Rory Trifon, he and Warhol met at Bernstein’s first solo exhibition in 1965. , head of the Richard Bernstein Estate.
“Many of Richard’s paintings were inspired by Warhol, and both were successful,” Trifon said.
Bernstein worked for Interview magazine for 15 years from 1972 to 1989, creating more than 120 portraits for the magazine’s covers. He used black and white photos and created colorful images or vibrant collages that caught the eye and jumped off the front page of the large format magazine.
Seventy volumes of it are displayed in a gallery on the second floor.
Trifon explained that the process begins with Bernstein cutting out a 16-by-20-inch photo, which he then blows up, brushes, and then paints on. Bernstein knew all these famous people just like Warhol. So he knew what colors to use for his skin, hair and eye color.
“Richard used blush, pencil, just different techniques,” Trifon said. “What I find fascinating is the amount of confidence that each photographer (had). They didn’t want someone to just paint them (portraits), but they entrusted Richard to do something extraordinary. And obviously Andy Warhol entrusted Richard to do an amazing job on the cover. “When you saw the ‘Interview’ magazine on newsstands, it really shined and stood out.”
Bernstein’s portraits ranged from Cher, Diana Ross, Olivia Newton-John and Minnelli to Brat Pack stars such as Rob Lowe and Molly Ringwald.
Other celebrities on the cover include Twiggy, Farrah Fawcett, Ali McGraw, Michael Jackson, Brooke Shields, Joan Rivers, Jane Fonda, Faye Dunaway, Nastassja Kinski and John McEnroe.
The magazine, which did not make much money at first, in addition to its aesthetics, eventually became profitable and attracted large advertisers such as liquor companies, fur and jewelry companies, and cosmetics and perfume companies.
Warhol did many interviews for the magazine that he recorded on audio cassettes.
“What’s really interesting is that Warhol didn’t like to over-edit interviews,” Beck said. “He was adamant that everything should be as it was in the conversation.”
Warhol was also very interested in doing video interviews, which led to the TV shows “Fashion, Warhol TV” and “Fifteen Minutes of Warhol”.
“Warhol TV” started in 1979. The first episode featured an interview with Blondie singer Debra Harry along with the band’s founder and guitarist Chris Stein.
The show opens with a video of Warhol posing with Harry, dressed in black, with the song “Call Me” playing in the background. Then the interview begins with rock columnist Lisa Robinson, who asks the questions.
There are reaction shots of Warhol, but he doesn’t say anything about them until nearly three minutes into the show, when he’s asked about recording an album where the same song is performed in different styles.
The series ran for two seasons and the pilot episode is a fascinating time capsule.
The “Fashion, TV Warhol” episodes are available for viewing on the second floor of the museum, along with the “Fifteen Minute Warhol” episodes that were eventually picked up by MTV. It ran there from 1985 until Warhol’s death in 1987.
In this show, Warhol slightly changed the interview format with famous people interviewing famous people.
For example, in one of the episodes in the middle of the first season, Warhol and Bianca Jagger interview Steven Spielberg, who is sitting on a bed. Just before the opening credits roll, Warhol is seen running straight towards the camera in slow motion.
The show opens with a clip from the movie “Poltergeist” and the three talk about the “ghost images” that used to be shown on televisions with antennas that picked up distant signals. Growing up, Spielberg talked about inventing ways to scare his sisters, such as standing at the window with a flashlight under his face.
The conversation shifted to Spielberg’s ET the Extra-Terrestrial, which Jagger says was “very moving” before Warhol said “we all cried.”
Warhol asks Spielberg about working with actors. She responded by saying that she would like to work with actor George C. Scott because “he’s different in every movie he does.”
The informal nature of the show must have thrown people into a loop at the time. Another example of Warhol being ahead of his time.
“What’s interesting about this is that Warhol starts making it in his office, in his studio or around town in New York City, whether it’s Studio 54 or a private home,” Beck said. But then it slowly produces more and more. When MTV comes in and starts production, then it gets high production.
The last part was a film of Warhol’s funeral.
There’s a lot to see with Andy Warhol’s The Social Network: Interviews, Television and Portraits exhibit, so visitors will want to make sure they allow enough time to take it all in.