Portrait of the artist
Saturday 13 June 1998
After cameos in last year's I Shot Andy Warhol and Basquiat (in which he was impersonated by David Bowie) he's presently the subject of the Barbican Art Gallery's exhibition "The Warhol Look". Mingling clothes, videos, illustrations and photographs culled from the Andy Warhol Museum, the display moves seamlessly between camp subculture, high society and the avant-garde as it traces Warhol's journey from window-dressing Pittsburgh fashion student to 1960s icon.
Along with photographs by Factory snappers Billy Name, Richard Avedon and David McCabe, the show is screening Warhol videos such as The 13 Most Beautiful Women, and films featuring Warholian superstar Candy Darling. Perhaps the most vital viewing, however, is a rare showing of David Bailey's controversial documentary, Warhol, followed by a talk between Bailey and his friend, photo-historian Martin Harrison.
Released to a huge public furore in 1972, Bailey's experimental documentary details Warhol's life after his near-fatal shooting by Valerie Solanas ("A lot of stitches. I looked like an Yves St Laurent dress"). Surrounded by fashion victims and camp poseurs, the artist eerily resembles a waxwork, and is about as forthcoming, rationing his replies to a mild "Oh really" or getting one of his hangers-on to reply to Bailey's questions while mouthing the words like a ventriloquist's dummy.
In one extraordinary scene, Bailey drives a fragile-looking Warhol to the beach, where he's looking forward to getting away from "all the drugs in New York" and seeing the sea, "the biggest abstract around". In another, he and Bailey are in bed together, smoking and chewing gum. Legend has it that Warhol refused to make the documentary unless Bailey slept with him, so there they are, the Odd Couple, with Warhol politely ribbing Bailey about being a "closet queen".
"Bailey's quite good at getting things out of people," notes Harrison, who is currently researching a forthcoming exhibition of the photographer's work for the Barbican. "That's something I noticed with him shooting his 'Models' series. It's mostly about sex, of course. That is his favourite subject, after all".
Whether or not Harrison is good at getting things out of Bailey is another matter. "David always says how much he hates the 1960s," laughs Harrison. "He always says 'Oh God, I'm so bored of talking about them', but I'm hoping to intrigue him into one of his expansive moods."
He plans to ask Bailey about the origins of his friendship with Warhol, the genesis of the film and to puncture a few myths about the Swinging Sixties while he's at it. "A lot of what the decade's taken to represent is untrue. The reality is that there was still hanging. Homosexuality was illegal until 1967. I think it's important to put the documentary into context. Just put a bit of that unswingingness of the 1960s back on record."
'Warhol', Barbican Cinema 1, EC2 (0171-382 7000) 17 Jun, 6.30pm
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