PARIS – Fashion and fame were two of Andy Warhol’s main obsessions and in Paris the king of Pop Art found fertile breeding ground for both.
Warhol may be forever identified with New York City and his Factory studio, but he was equally celebrated in the French capital, where he was a regular visitor. The American artist at one point kept an apartment in the Left Bank neighborhood of Saint-Germain-des-Près, and even enlisted Karl Lagerfeld to appear in his locally-shot underground film “L’Amour”.
A new exhibition at the Gagosian gallery near Place Vendôme highlights Warhol’s vision of Paris and its ties to fashion, with portraits of famous designers including Hubert de Givenchy, Sonia Rykiel and Azzedine Alaïa.
“Andy Warhol: Paris and Fashion”, which runs until 12 October, features 40 photographs ranging from his signature Polaroid portraits of celebrities, which he used as the basis for screen-printed paintings, to improvised black and white photographs of the monuments of Paris, often taken from the back of a car.
Like a time capsule, they provide a snapshot of her life on both sides of the Atlantic, capturing events such as a dinner with Diane de Beauvau-Craon, the socialite known as the “punk princess”, or a visit to the atelier of Hubert de Givenchy with São Schlumberger art patron.
“Warhol had a very keen perception of Parisian fashion, having maintained close ties to fashion throughout his career,” said Serena Cattaneo Adorno, director of Gagosian’s Parisian galleries.
“His vision was obviously influenced by his friendship with famous designers with whom he shared intimate moments,” he said, identifying a Polaroid that he took on vacation to Morocco with Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé.
“That said, he was also interested in emerging designers,” added Cattaneo Adorno, noting that the exhibition features images of Diane von Furstenberg, Jean Paul Gaultier and Stephen Sprouse where they were in their early 1930s. “He was already close to all these designers long before they became extremely famous.”
The images come from a private collection. “What’s great is to collect so many iconic snapshots of Paris and fashion personalities in one show,” she said.
While Polaroids capture iconic designers like Giorgio Armani and Carolina Herrera in captivating poses, much of Warhol’s photography has a disposable quality, explained by his documentary approach. “A photo means I know where I was every minute. That’s why I take pictures. It’s a visual diary, ”he once said.
Cattaneo Adorno noted that he applied the same method to famous monuments as he did to celebrities. “He is really an American in Paris,” he said. “The idea is always to take something iconic and reuse it”. In fact, Warhol would go on to feature the Eiffel Tower in one of the paintings he made with Jean-Michel Basquiat in 1985.
Gagosian’s team was able to date the images and identify other significant details thanks to Warhol’s diaries, originally published in 1989 but which gained new relevance thanks to a recent Netflix series. “This revived interest in his life and who he left,” said Cattaneo Adorno.
The exhibition includes black and white images of a young Carole Bouquet in a sleeveless sweater and jeans; Loulou de la Falaise smoking and Jack Nicholson sharing a meal with Italian model and longtime Saint Laurent muse Marina Schiano. There are Polaroids of the queen of Parisian nightlife Régine and the American model and jewelry designer Tina Chow.
“Today, thanks to the Internet, you can be in contact with anyone in the world. At that time, you had to be in Paris, at the Café de Flore, waiting for someone to come in or out to make that kind of trade, ”noted the gallery owner.
In an interview with Gagosian Quarterly magazine, von Furstenberg described how Warhol would socialize.
“He was a voyeur. He let you talk and spoke little and when she did it was always something short and he said it to make you say more. He wanted to know everything about you, he wanted to take a picture of you, he had a tape recorder in his pocket, he wanted to paint you. It was all absorbent, “she recalled.
“But looking back, he had an incredible sense of the brand. She had a vision of what the world would be that none of us had realized until he was here. In a way, she did social media before social media. He would have gone crazy with Instagram. He was the original influencer, “von Furstenberg said.
Meanwhile, Warhol’s commercial work, including Polaroids of a topless man in Levi’s jeans and a stack of Halston-branded shoes, illustrates his enduring influence on the aesthetics of fashion and advertising today. At the center of a Polaroid wall is “Self Portrait with a Scary Wig” taken in 1986, a few months before his death, suggesting that the protagonist of the show remains Warhol himself.