SRQ Magazine | April 2017
In Visual Arts
It’s difficult to imagine a world without Andy Warhol. In the 1950s and ‘60s, at a time when abstract expressionism dominated the American art scene, Warhol brought a radically different approach not just to painting, but to art, its creation and its consumption as a leader of the Pop Art movement. Both populist and esoteric, Warhol served as a beacon for this new movement and his studio, The Factory, a gathering place for creatives from all walks of life to come together and be a part of something electric. But in 1987, as his star seemed to be forever rising, Andy Warhol died at age 58. With a massive memorial service planned at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, Vanity Fair sent a young photographer and friend of Warhol’s named Christophe von Hohenberg to cover the occasion, only to ultimately reject and never publish the photos.
“The shoot was really, ‘Who’s wearing miniskirts at Andy’s memorial,’” recalls Hohenberg. “It wasn’t a cultural thing.” ‘80s fashion designer Stephen Sprouse had just reintroduced the mini, and though he can be seen in Hohenberg’s photographs attending the memorial, there’s nary a micro-skirt to be found. Instead, Hohenberg captured a much more somber occasion, as admirers from different strata of society descended upon the cathedral to pay their honest respects. “So I just shot it as documentation,” he says. Captured in candid black and white, fashion icons like Calvin Klein brush shoulders with literary legends such as Tom Wolfe, swapping out his trademark white suit for a more fitting black. Yoko Ono, Liza Minelli, Bianca Jagger and even Raquel Welch make an appearance in Hohenberg’s photographs, as celebrities disembark from sleek limousines while crowds full of Warhol’s fans press from the back.
Though Vanity Fair didn’t publish the photographs, Hohenberg never gave up on them. “What kept me going is that this is a piece of history,” he says. “Every death represents a loss of knowledge and time, and photography holds time and knowledge.” Hohenberg made a book, The Day The Factory Died, reaching out to Warhol’s friends and subjects, such as Campbell Soup Company, asking for handwritten letters and accounts of happy memories with Warhol to supplement the visual aspect. And though Hohenberg has mounted a handful of exhibits in Europe to showcase the work, the most recent show at Alfstad& Contemporary, closing April 1 on the 30th anniversary of the memorial, marks his most expansive yet, both in terms of content and presentation.
Even 30 years later, Hohenberg sees reason to revisit the memorial. “He’s a living pop figure—a cartoon figure like Roger Rabbit,” he says, pounding the table as he struggles to find the words to capture such a creature as Warhol, “and we all live on the coattails of Andy somehow, in one way or another, from fashion to attitude.” There’s no solemnity, as he says death gave Warhol what he really wanted: international stardom. “This is the last door for Andy,” says Hohenberg of the photographs, “and the beginning of his new life.”
Apr 21, 2017
Apr 19, 2017
Apr 10, 2017