‘He Was Just Documenting Society’: Veterans of Warhol’s Factory Days Remember the Artist and Filmmaker at a Special artnet Event
The night featured special guests who were part Warhol's rarefied social circle, including Vincent Fremont, Jane Holzer, and Anthony Haden-Guest.
The shadow cast by Andy Warhol‘s career as an artist, draftsman, and filmmaker—not to mention a fixture of the club, music, and art scenes of New York City—is endlessly long and wide. This year marks the 90th anniversary of Warhol’s birth to Czech immigrants in rural Pennsylvania, and a symphony of Warhol-related museum and gallery shows have opened in his adoptive hometown to celebrate the inimitable icon, including the first New York-based retrospective devoted to Warhol in 20 years, “Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again” at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
One of the lesser-known aspects of Warhol’s oeuvre are his many films—even though, over the course of five years (1963–1968), Warhol produced almost 650 of them. These include his famous Screen Tests, extended portraits in which the subject—often one of his coterie of socialites, models, rock stars, and other cultural figures—would sit silently in front of a camera, unblinking, and bask in its cool regard. On the occasion of the Whitney retrospective, artnet held a private viewing of seven of Warhol’s most enduring cinematic endeavors in the luxurious penthouse on the 65th floor of 252 East 57th Street.
The evening was attended by a packed house of art collectors and enthusiasts, many of whom experienced the heyday of Andy Warhol’s New York City; guests were treated to champagne and hors d’oeuvres prepared by the celebrated chef Daniel Boulud’s catering company.
The films on view—The Velvet Underground & Nico (1966), Screen Tests (1964-66), Empire (1964), The Closet (1966), Poor Little Rich Girl (1966), and CAMP (1965)—were curated throughout the spacious six-bedroom apartment, along with photographs loaned from the Estate of Nat Finkelstein, who captured Warhol alongside luminaries of the 1960s like Nico, Edie Sedgwick, Bob Dylan, and Jane Holzer.
The 8,139-square-foot full-floor penthouse is the sole remaining residence available for purchase at 252 E 57, the newly developed
The evening’s main attraction was a panel discussion moderated by artnet News editor-in-chief Andrew Goldstein and featuring guests Vincent Fremont, a longtime collaborator of Warhol and one of the Founding Directors of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; “Baby” Jane Holzer, a Factory “superstar” who appeared in several of Warhol’s films; and writer Anthony Haden-Guest, the eloquent author and bon vivant who has chronicled his experiences in Manhattan’s elite social circles and art scenes in books like True Colors.
As Goldstein noted, Warhol’s films were “often challenging movies that disregard even the slenderest conventions of Hollywood… overturning notions of plot, dramatic pacing, traditional notions of decorum, and even fundamental viewability”—a sentiment that was echoed over the course of the evening in stories that Holzer and Fremont shared from the Factory era.
“In the early days he would direct, but not direct,” Holzer told the audience. “He would turn on the camera—and then walk away to do something else. Eventually someone would come back and turn off the camera when it had run out of film… so that’s the opposite of what a ‘director’ does. Sometimes you just let things happen. It was just documenting society, documenting poets.”
What would Andy Warhol make of today’s world, where anyone can star in their own version of a Screen Test thanks to Instagram stories and selfie sticks? Today, Warhol’s famous quip that “in the future everybody in the world will be famous for 15 minutes” is nothing short of a fact of life.
See more images from the artnet “Reel Friends” Event, in partnership with 252 East 57th Street, below:
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