"When I think back on all the beauties we knew, I realize there was something special about the way they all held their heads and moved their arms." Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol’s Bad was emblazoned on a tee shirt I owned around 1980, duly purchased because my idol Debbie Harry was spied wearing it and I just had to have one too. Fast forward to the late eighties, when I visited my first Warhol exhibition in London, where I refuelled my love affair with the late Marilyn Monroe and gazed upon the variety of Warhols.
Andy Warhol gave us that famous quote,” Everyone can be famous for 15 minutes”. Andy knew a thing or two about a good slogan or punchline. He made famous the simple everyday household items such as the Campbell soup can, Brillo pads. He held court to rock stars, socialites, film stars, freaks, transvestites and created his own superstars, such as Ultra Violet, Ingrid Superstar, Candy Darling, Viva and even managed The Velvet Underground, way back in the late 60's and 70's. Andy Warhol craved to be around the beautiful people, the famous, the outrageous, movie stars, and music makers, and in the end he became a legend himself.
Today marks another Andy Warhol visitation, at The Salford Lowry Centre, presenting Warhol And The Diva exhibition. It’s a collection which comes direct from The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, USA. We visit on the second day of this magnificent retrospective on Warhol and witness first hand his fascination with celebrities. Alongside the Warhol gallery displays are the works of Salford born Lowry, bursting to the brim with all manner of Lowry’s paintings and artefacts. I wonder what Lowry or indeed Warhol would make of being displayed close to each other, when in reality they are poles apart in style. I mused later if Lowry would have embraced Warhol’s pop sensibility, as he sits further along the corridor in all its finery and glamour.
The intro to the exhibition starts with a simple quote from Andy on the black, glittery wall, in glowing white handwriting font….it reads:
The wall opposite features the original small Polaroid portfolio, from which Andy used to fire up his artful imagination. These are dubbed the raw formats but such icons as punk pin up Debbie Harry, statuesque singer Grace Jones, the 'Cabaret' actress/singer Lisa Minnelli, actresses Jane Fonda and Joan Collins, all look amazingly stunning and made up - far from raw. Its hard to conceive that from these small instamatics he conjured up those now legendary works of art.
What is interesting is the section dedicated to Andy himself, where he features in a series of drag portraits. Andy, as the Diva, the drag artist, in various stark poses, wearing a multitude of wigs and emulating the late Monroe, right down to the crimson lipstick and the platinum blonde wig.
Further along the gallery, we have the large screen prints of the likes of Joan Collins, Debbie Harry, and the recently departed Elizabeth Taylor. An exhibition corridor of original Interview Magazine covers [which Andy founded in 1969] featuring the big artists, musicians and creative entities of the year in all their finery and awash with colour and bad taste [in the best possible way]! Interview Magazine was the forerunner to many others who came along later. The Magazine is still available today http://www.interviewmagazine.com
The responsibility for the design of the gallery must be applauded; as it features chandeliers, leopard skin and Zebra skin wallpaper, and a glitzy feel throughout. I’m sure Warhol would be proud to have his works displayed in such illustrious debauchery. In particular the Monroe portrait gallery almost feel like a sacred shrine to the Goddess, the walls featuring the prints he lovingly created upon her death using the photo from the movie Niagara. With the rooms chandelier, the black diamond encrusted sofa in the centre and the sumptuous touchy feely wallpaper, tell me who wouldn’t feel like a Diva in this room? Andy never met Monroe but he ensured her star shined brightly well into the future, she is and will remain Andy’s most famous star portrait.
“Andy Warhol looks a scream, hang him on my wall, Andy Warhol, silver Screen, can't tell them apart at all” - 'Andy Warhol' by David Bowie
Moving on through the gallery we discover a video room, which gave us a touching glimpse into the private world of Andy. We sat in the darkened room, on huge leopardskin cushions to become a voyeur for the next few minutes, with Andy posing and chatting during his photoshoot for those drag polaroid Diva sessions with photographer Christopher Makos, the session became entitled Lady Warhol. We wander into the quiet area, with a sofa and chairs for the weary souls and a coffee table strewn with Warhol books to browse through, displayed on the walls here are black and white photos of Andy mixing with the celebrities in which he loved so dearly. I’ll leave the last word to Andy.
"My idea of a good picture is one that‘s in focus and of a famous person.” Andy Warhol
If you are heading into Manchester take a trip down to the exhibition, its open until 25th September, the exhibition is closely monitored and they have a strict no photography policy.Collection of the Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh