Andy Warhol’s wonder women

Andy Warhol at the tenth anniversary of Interview magazine at Studio 54, 1979, with (L-R) Bob Colacello, Jerry Hall, Debbie Harry, Truman Capote and Paloma Picasso

New York’s Whitney Museum debuts Andy Warhol—From A to B and Back Again, the first major US retrospective of the pop artist’s work in decades. But as prolific and opinionated as he was, Warhol owed a lot to the women who inspired him… By FEDORA ABU

The artist with his “superstar” Edie Sedgwick and talent manager Chuck Wein, New York City, 1965

Edie Sedgwick

When Warhol wrote in his autobiography that “one person in the ’60s fascinated me more than anybody I had ever known”, it was clear who he was talking about; before the Caras and the Kendalls, there was Edie, the ultimate It girl and artist’s muse. It’s believed that Sedgwick first met Warhol at a party for Tennessee Williams; it wasn’t long before the artist adopted her as one of his ‘superstars’. She soon became his leading lady, starring in many of his films and accompanying him to public appearances until she died of a drug overdose, aged 28.

Grace Jones

“You don’t get to stay famous for long unless you're always switching. Grace Jones is an example of this,” said Warhol of the statuesque supermodel, singer and actress. With her striking looks and capacity for constant reinvention, Jones was an enduring muse to Warhol, who photographed her for Vogue in 1984. Today, the 70-year-old diva admits she often turns down requests for selfies, though she believes her late friend would’ve been a big fan – perhaps unsurprising, considering he famously filmed himself eating a hamburger. It appears, even in his narcissism, Warhol was way ahead of his time.

Warhol with Grace Jones, photographed in the back of a limousine in New York City, 1986

Diana Vreeland

It’s not hard to see why Warhol clicked with fashion icon Diana Vreeland: both were tastemakers who shared a talent for creating timeless images. Like Warhol, Vreeland was disparaging of her own looks, yet nonetheless crafted an impeccable veneer for herself – meticulously coiffed hair, lacquered red nails and plenty of rouge. The legendary editor was clearly an influential presence in the artist’s life, appearing countless times in his posthumously published diaries. She was also the queen of snappy one-liners, among them: “Unshined shoes are the end of civilization.”

Diana Vreeland (right) and Andy Warhol (left) among guests at Warhol’s Folk and Funk art exhibit in New York City, 1977

Debbie Harry

Warhol’s hot-pink print of the Blondie singer is one of his best-known portraits: in 2011, Sotheby’s sold the work for almost $6 million. According to Harry, the two met after she moved to New York to pursue a career in music; she was soon invited to The Factory (Warhol’s studio-cum-social-hub), eventually becoming a member of the artist’s inner circle. Warhol’s 42-inch portrait of Harry perfectly captures the punk rocker’s allure: choppy bob, icy stare and contoured red pout. “He made it very easy,” reflected Harry on her experience shooting with the artist. “Andy was part of our legacy and our future.”

Debbie Harry at a Studio 54 party for Warhol’s Interview magazine, 1979
One of the most iconic images of the ’70s: Bianca Jagger on the famous white horse in Studio 54, 1977

Bianca Jagger

The original Mrs Mick Jagger was a close friend of the artist and both were firm fixtures at New York’s notorious Studio 54. When the two weren’t navigating the ’70s social scene, they could often be found vacationing together with the likes of Truman Capote and Yves Saint Laurent. Poised and effortlessly photogenic, Jagger proved the perfect subject for Warhol’s roving lens and together they helped challenge beauty norms: one candid photo shows Jagger shaving her underarms, looking as beautiful and as cool as ever.

See Andy Warhol—From A to B and Back Again at the Whitney Museum; November 12, 2018 – March 31, 2019

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