Andy Warhol. Drawings
2017-04-04 - 2017-05-12
Quite recently, the thirtieth anniversary of Andy Warhol’s sudden death on 22nd February 1987 passed by imperceptibly. Thirty years ago, it was actually his exhibition which launched my career as an art dealer. I had met Warhol a few months earlier in New York, not long before his death. The previous November, I had visited The Factory to talk to his manager, Fred Hughes, about the possibility of commissioning a series of new paintings. We agreed that I would send them some suggestions for motifs. However, it became evident from the conversation that creating a new series was a matter for the future. Yet I wanted to start work on the exhibition as quickly as possible. Fred Hughes suggested showing works already in existence... and that’s what happened. Between the deadline for sending out the invitations and the opening, Andy Warhol died. I don’t know whether I was aware of his greatness back then, or of the gap that his death would cause. Before we said goodbye, Fred Hughes asked me if I’d like to meet Warhol in person. We left his extremely elegant ‘office’, which was filled with antiques, and I think we might have taken a lift to another storey, but I don’t remember because I was incredibly nervous. The doors of the lift (?) opened and suddenly (!) there I was, standing, like an unprepared schoolboy in front of the blackboard, in the expansive, light-filled studio of the greatest and probably the most famous artist of the time. Hanging on a side wall was a huge Warhol painting, new and possible still unfinished, which depicted Christ enthroned at the table during the Last Supper. I only caught sight of it for a split second, because Andy Warhol himself appeared in front of me. I was introduced to him. He seemed to me to be an almost incorporeal, absent ghost and although his handshake was very frail, it reignited that sense of homework left undone. We exchanged a few words, which I don't remember... I think he said something about a forthcoming trip to Milan for an exhibition of the latest paintings from the Last Supper series which, as it turned out, was to be his final work. The studio also held other paintings, tables, paints and I think there was a workout bench and a set of dumb-bells, as well. In pride of place, reigning supreme, was that huge painting of Christ... or maybe, of two Christs, because Warhol loved repetition.
Ever since 1996, I have had the honour and enormous satisfaction of collaborating with the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, which represents his artistic legacy. To me, Warhol is one of the greatest personalities of the second half of the twentieth century. His work seems to be a synthesis of two other twentieth-century geniuses who preceded him; Matisse and Duchamp. Indeed, Matisse’s influence is very clear to see in Warhol’s drawings and prints.
It was from Warhol’s lips that the saying “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes” came. Is that ‘everyone’? Or only those who seek it?
The true artist strives for fame not for the sake of fame itself but so that their work will become ‘immortal’.