Warhol Documentary by Family Members Aims to Show Different Side of Andy

"To me he was just Uncle Andy.”


View Slideshow
Uncle Andy: The Andy Warhol Family Film.
Photo: warhol.com
Andy Warhol as a young boy.
Photo: warhol.com
Filmmaker Abby Warhola and her husband, Jesse Best, with their daughter.
Photo: warhol.com
Andy Warhol's niece, Abby Warhola.
Photo: warhol.com
Family members Jamie and Marylou with Uncle Andy.
Photo: warhol.com
Artist Paul Warhola and Andy.
Photo: warhol.com

What might the recollections of the family of Andy Warhol add to the history of the father of Pop art? The artist’s great-niece, fashion photographer Abby Warhola, and her partner, filmmaker and artist Jesse Best, aim to turn eight years’ worth of interviews with the Warhola family at their homes in Pittsburgh into a documentary that will show a different side of an artist who dominates the art market year after year (see Which Artists Conquered the Market in 2014?).

“Right now on one hard drive I have over 7 terabytes of video,” Best told artnet News in a phone interview today. “There’s a lot. And this is still just the beginning. We have access to the family every day.” Best has worked on films such as The Mothman Prophecies, Unstoppable (featuring Denzel Washington) and The Road, with Viggo Mortensen.

The filmmakers have launched a Kickstarter campaign aiming to raise $175,000 in 31 days, allowing them creative control.

“We’ve had interest from outsiders who want to produce it,” Best said. “But I want to guard and protect the family. There are always people hungry for a Warhol story, but they get the story, they take it and they leave, and sometimes they distort it. To us, it’s sacred to us and we want to protect it. We don’t want to get in bed with anyone.”

Some of the premiums offered may entice backers all the same. For a $10,000 pledge, you get dinner at Warhol’s childhood home. Those who commit to just $2,500 get an Easter egg my Madalen Warhola in the style Warhol made them.

Warhola and Best have ten hours of interviews with Paul Warhola alone, the artist’s oldest brother, who died in January 2014.

“Nobody ever really told us he was a famous painter,” says Marty Warhola in a preview clip. “So to me he was just Uncle Andy.”

Warhol wasn’t an early riser, not surprisingly considering his lifestyle.

“When we were kids, we’d always go to the city to visit Uncle Andy,” says George Warhola. “Real exciting. And we’d always wait for Andy to wake up in the morning. Like, eleven o’clock, ten-thirty, we’d go up.” Warhol had a propensity to give George a splash of Chanel No. 5 behind the ears, he relates.

“Other Warhol documentaries can be strictly historical and a bit dry,” Best said, “whereas we want to make this a creative project as much as a documentary.”

While art historians and critics have their own credibility, Best added, family members have a different kind of authority.

“They were connected to him until he died. These are the people who identified the body.”

Best is full of stories from Warhol’s kin that will appear in the film.

“They were once helping him stretch canvases for his next big show, the ‘Dance Step’ paintings,” he said, “and at one point they dropped a stapler and it ripped a hole right in one of the big paintings. Andy just moved right along and made another one. How Warhol is that?”

“There’s always been an interesting tension between the family’s view of Andrew Warhola, the down-home nice guy, and the rest of the world’s view of Andy Warhol, the wacko artist,” says artnet News critic Blake Gopnik, who is working on a book on Warhol. “In my research, I’m discovering that the tension was there in Warhol’s own existence: The greatest creative act of that ‘nice guy’ was to sculpt the wacko artist named Andy Warhol. By the end, I’m not sure even he could sort out quite which he was.”

What does the family say about Warhol’s sexuality? It seems to be hinted at in a few words from Anne Warhola, his grandmother: “It came to me whenever he’d wave his hand. He was from another world. You know what I mean? He wasn’t part of us. He was from out there.”

“That’s always a hot topic,” Best said. “But the thing with the family is that it never came up. Andy never shared that side of his life with them.

“We’re going to cover it,” he went on. “Some feel one way about it, some feel confident another way. I don’t want to make a statement one way or the other about how the family feels about it. Everyone wants to know. We’re going to cover it in the truest way possible.”

Warhol’s auction record is currently $105.4 million, set by Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster), a large 1963 silkscreen and spray paint work, set at Sotheby’s New York in November 2013. Since then, Triple Elvis (Ferus Type), from the same year, fetched $81.9 million at Christie’s New York in November 2014 as part of the largest auction ever, in any category (see Epic Christie’s $852.9 Million Blockbuster Contemporary Art Sale Is the Highest Ever).

“I’ve been at the family’s house and they’ve had an original painting hanging on the wall and they’re just eating pierogis,” Best said. “And the next day I’m at a museum in Japan and the image of it is everywhere.”

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