Tag Archives: Andy Warhol

The Last of the Chelsea Hotel

Just got my copy of Colin Miller and Ray Mock’s book, Hotel Chelsea: Living in the Last Bohemian Haven, about the few remaining residents of the legendary hotel.

Legendary? Well, for starters, the Chelsea is the hotel where Sid Vicious (maybe) murdered Nancy Spungen, and where Dylan Thomas drank himself to death. Mark Twain stayed there, and so did several survivors of the Titanic. Former residents include Bob Dylan and Madonna, Jackson Pollock and Bette Midler.

And Stanley Kubrick, Jimi Hendrix, Allan Ginsberg, and Patti Smith. And Jim Morrison. And Andy Warhol, but of course you probably already assumed that.

Oh, and the Chelsea is where Arthur C. Clarke wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey and Jack Kerouac typed On the Road.

In 2011, the Chelsea was sold to a real estate developer who closed the hotel “for renovations”.  Residents protected by rent regulations were allowed to stay, but no new tenants were accepted. The disruption and health hazards caused by renovation construction were widely perceived as an attempt by the new owners to drive the protected residents from the building.

The attempt was largely successful. Nine years later, the “renovations” are still ongoing, and only a few of the old residents are still living in the building. And not just living, but living well, which is the best revenge.

Here are some of their homes. (All photos found online.)

Janis Joplin at the Chelsea Hotel

Leonard Cohen had a brief, very 60ish thing with Janis Joplin at the Chelsea, and wrote two songs about it. Here’s “Chelsea Hotel No. 2”. (Mildly NSFW lyrics.)

Chelsea Girls and Lads All Must
As Chimney-Sweepers, Come to Dust

After Nico left the Velvet Underground, she released a solo album called Chelsea Girl which included a song about some of the speed freaks, debutantes, hustlers, drag queens, and heiresses who made up Andy Warhol’s assemblage of Superstars and who lived, sometimes, at the Chelsea Hotel. Here’s an audio-only recording of “Chelsea Girls”

“Andy Warhol’s Dead But I’m Not”

Andy Warhol, born 6 August 1928, would have been 90 years old today.

I thought about posting some of Warhol’s prints, since his popularization of Pop Art changed the way people have thought about art ever since…

…and I considered posting a couple of songs from the Warhol-produced “Velvet Underground & Nico” album, one of the greatest and most influential recordings in modern history…

Note the $2 admission charge ($1 with student ID) for this performance at the University of Denver Student Union.

…and how could I overlook Warhol’s long reign as celebrity-in-chief during the sex-and-drugs-drenched Golden Age of Studio 54?

But in the end, I decided that this song from the 80s was a fine tribute to one of the 20th century’s great innovators.

Offered at Auction: Warhol — The Album Covers

Oh, this looks like fun! Andy would approve.*

Between 1949 and 1987, Andy Warhol designed the sleeves for 60 LP records. And now you can own the whole set. All you have to do is place the high bid in an auction.

The estimate is €50,000 (about ~US$55,980).

The Complete Warhol LPs, the full set of Andy Warhol record sleeves, will be offered at auction by PIASA in Paris on 22 June 2017. According to the auction notes:

“This unique ensemble, assembled by a passionate music-lover, transports us through 40 years of musical creativity. It has never been offered at auction before.”

The 60 vinyl discs are included in the collection, but the notes say nothing about the vintage or condition of the records.

Warhol’s instantly recognizable jacket for the first Velvet Underground album, featuring a peelable banana, is the most famous item in the collection, and one of the best known record sleeves of all time. Warhol is credited as the “producer” of the album, which was hugely influential, and still shows up on most “Greatest Rock Album Ever” lists, 50 years after its release. The copy offered at auction was signed by Warhol.

Also included is the notorious jacket for the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers, which featured a very explicit crotch shot of Joe Dallesandro—“…generally considered to be the most famous male sex symbol of American underground films of the 20th century,” according to Wikipedia—in skin-tight jeans. The Smiths later used a photograph of Dallesandro from the Warhol film Flesh as the cover of their 1984 self-titled début album The Smiths.

A related video. (As if I needed an excuse to post it….)

*On second thought, Warhol would probably be irritated that someone else figured out a way to monetize the album jackets before he did.


The Naked Man at the Met Gala (Mildly NSFW — Brief Nudity)

“Art Is Anything You Can Get Away With”

That quotation is frequently attributed to Andy Warhol, and it certainly sounds like something he would have said, but it was Marshall “The Medium Is the Message” McLuhan who actually coined the phrase.

Sometimes, for some artists, Art Is Anything…whether you get away with it or not.  Take Russian artist/provocateur Fyodor Pavlov-Andreevich, for instance.

Here he is doing a performance piece called Os Caquis (The Persimmons), outside the School of Visual Arts in Rio de Janeiro in 2015.

That’s Pavlov-Andreevich, sitting naked on a tall plywood chair at the entrance to the museum. His assistant is offering very soft persimmons to the visitors, who are invited to throw them at the artist.

The goal?

“By the end of the performance the artist and the podium will all be covered in the orange pulp from the more or less successful attempts of the visitors to hit the artist.”

Ah! That explains it!

And then there’s Fyodor’s Performance Carousel-II, a hard-to-describe collaborative performative installation he orchestrated last year in Vienna.

This is all leading up to what happened last Monday night at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Background

The Met Gala is the big annual fundraising event for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. It’s an evening packed with celebrities—this year’s honorary chairs were Katy Perry and Pharrell Williams—and with the very, very rich.

Vogue editor Anna Wintour—the presumed model for the “Miranda Priestly” character in The Devil Wears Prada—is a trustee of the Met, and oversees the annual 700-person guest list. Those not on the list can buy individual tickets to the Gala for $25,000.

It was only $15,000 until 2014. They raised the price to keep out the riffraff.

Enter Fyodor Pavlov-Andreevich

Fyodor’s most famous—maybe notorious is a more appropriate word—performance piece is called Foundling. Over the past two years, he’s staged it, uninvited, at art-related events in Venice, Moscow, London, and São Paulo. On Monday, 1 May 2017, he completed the five-part performance art project at the Met Gala in New York.

Foundling is easy to describe:  Fyodor gets completely undressed and curls up inside a clear plastic box. He’s tall, and it’s a tight fit. The box is then sealed and transported to the event du jour. The artist’s assistants deposit the box, and the naked artist within, at the selected site.

Here’s how it went down in New York:

The Aftermath

Despite the fact that the Gala attendees and staff shown in the video were amused rather than disturbed or offended, Pavlov-Andreevich was arrested on a bunch of bogus misdemeanor charges, including  public lewdness, criminal trespass, and disorderly conduct.

So much for New York’s celebrated reputation for sophistication and tolerance for eccentricity—the police were never called in at any of the previous four performances of Foundling, and Fyodor has never been arrested anywhere else.

The box remains in police custody. “If anyone cares about the box’ fate, it’s under arrest as well,” Pavlov wrote on Facebook.

Free Fyodor!  And free the box, too!  

Je suis Pavlov-Andreevich!

All photos and videos came from the artist’s website, linked above. It’s well worth a visit.

It’s Andy Warhol’s Birthday

Andy Warhol, né Andrew Warhola, was born 88 years ago, on 6 August 1928.   It’s almost impossible to overstate Warhol’s influence on great swaths of popular culture during the last 50 years.  Warhol, like David Bowie, seemed to live in the future, and did his best to help the rest of us catch up with him.  But, also like Bowie, he was a chameleon who always stayed a few decades ahead.

The two shared another similarity.  Andrew Warhola’s greatest work of art was “Andy Warhol,” just as David Robert Jones’s greatest work of art was “David Bowie.”

The photo at the top of this item shows Warhol kissing John Lennon, another person who had a great deal to do with changing the world into which he was born.  The picture below this captures Warhol hanging out at The Factory with The Velvet Underground.   Warhol “produced” the band’s classic first album.

The Velvet Underground

The most  famous Warhol quote was the prophetic:  “In the future everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.”  Here are some others:

  • “An artist is somebody who produces things that people don’t need to have.”
  • “Art is whatever you can get away with.”
  • “Sex is more exciting on the screen and between the pages than between the sheets.”
  • “The most beautiful thing in Tokyo is McDonald’s.  The most beautiful thing in Stockholm is McDonald’s.  The most beautiful thing in Florence is McDonald’s.  Peking and Moscow don’t have anything beautiful yet.”
  • “I’m afraid that if you look at a thing long enough, it loses all of its meaning.”
  • “The Pop artists did images that anybody walking down Broadway could recognize in a split second –– comics, picnic tables, men’s trousers, celebrities, shower curtains, refrigerators, Coke bottles –– all the great modern things that the Abstract Expressionists tried so hard not to notice at all.”
  • “I really do live for the future, because when I’m eating a box of candy, I can’t wait to taste the last piece.  I don’t even taste any of the other pieces, I just want to finish and throw the box away and not have to have it on my mind any more.  I would rather either have it now or know I’ll never have it so I don’t have to think about it.  That’s why some days I wish I were very very old-looking so I wouldn’t have to think about getting old-looking.”
  • “If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface; of my paintings and films and me, and there I am. There’s nothing behind it.”

I can’t think about Warhol without remembering this song from the 80s:

Furthur — The Magic Bus May Roll Again



”Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very Heaven!”

It was 50 years ago that Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters made their famous cross-country journey from Kesey’s ranch in La Honda, California, to New York, dispensing joy and LSD to anyone they met along the way.  (Acid was legal in the United States until 1966). They made the trip in a psychedelically painted bus named “Furthur”.

The Beatles had arrived in the US a few months earlier, Andy Warhol’s  13 Most Wanted Men mural proved too edgy for New York World’s Fair officials, who covered it with silver paint,  and Bob Dylan released The Times They Are a-Changin’.   The possibilities seemed limitless.

It didn’t end well.


Furthur Then

After an arrest for marijuana possession the next year, Kesey faked his own suicide and hid out in Mexico for eight months, then returned to the States and served a five month sentence in a county jail. After that, he moved back to the family farm in Oregon, where he spent the rest of his life. There were apparently several “descendents” of the magic bus, but the original Furthur eventually wound up in a swamp on the farm.

Ken Kesey stands next to the overgrown Merry Pranksters bus on his Oregon property months before his death in 2001. Photo Brian Davies, AP

Ken Kesey stands next to the overgrown Merry Pranksters bus on his Oregon property months before his death in 2001.  Photo by Brian Davies, AP

Now a non-profit organization called the Furthur Down The Road Foundation is raising money for the restoration of the bus. The San Francisco Chronicle has an article about the situation.

“David Bowie is” Exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario

It was brilliant!

David Bowie at the Art Gallery of Ontario

“David Bowie is” at the Art Gallery of Ontario

David Bowie is arrives at the AGO for the first North American stop on an unprecedented world tour, direct from a record-breaking run at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Spanning five decades and featuring more than 300 objects from Bowie’s personal archive, this totally immersive multimedia show celebrates the groundbreaking artist’s collaborations in the fields of fashion, sound, theatre, art and film….

 Organized thematically, the show takes visitors on a spectacular and interactive trip through Bowie’s numerous personae and legendary performances, highlighting his artistic influences and his experiments with Surrealism, German Expressionism, Music Hall, mime and Japanese Kabuki performance.”

from the Art Gallery of Ontario’s website

The costumes!  There were more than 50 of them, some familiar, many I’d never seen before.  (Judging from the size, by the way, Bowie is tiny.  The Thin White Duke seems to have a 20 inch waist).

From the "David Bowie is" Show Catalogue

From the “David Bowie is” Show Catalogue

The show was spread over two floors.  The first focused on the early years, mixing ration books with paperback copies of 1984 and Absolute Beginners, toy trains with the 16-year-old Bowie’s first television interview.  Along the way, we discover that Bowie’s first album was released the same day as another British record:  the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.  And that Andy Warhol gave Bowie’s manager a test pressing of The Velvet Underground & Nico, which lead to Bowie’s playing covers of songs from The Greatest Rock and Roll Album in History before it was even released.

The first floor part of the show ends with a room devoted to the moon landing and the birth of Major Tom, and with a room full of Warhol paintings, posters, and photographs.

From the "David Bowie is" Show Catalogue

From the “David Bowie is” Show Catalogue

The second floor explodes. This is one glorious son et lumière–a mix of sound, video, costume, props, and performance art.

The  headset audio was keyed to location. As you approached an installation, the headset automatically played the appropriate audio–No entering numbers or pressing buttons.  In one room, for instance, there was a wall full of monitors playing Bowie videos.  Each video was linked to a square in the checkerboard carpet.  The music you heard corresponded to which square you stood on.

Best show of the year. No Question.

Lou Reed Died Today

The Velvet Underground & Nicoalbum-Lou-Reed-Transformer76664-lou-reed-berlin

This one really hurts.

Lou Reed, generally regarded as one of the most influential singer-songwriters of the last 50 years, died this weekend at 71.  His band, The Velvet Underground, foreshadowed most of the musical genres that developed over the 30 years following the release of its first  album, the Andy Warhol-produced The Velvet Underground & Nico:  psychedelia, glam, goth, industrial, punk, grunge, alternative, it’s all there.  The album still tops many critics’ lists as the greatest rock album ever.

No one is sure whether it was Brian Eno or REM’s Peter Buck who said that “Only 10,000 people originally bought the first Velvet Underground album, but every single one of them went out and started a band”, but the thought rings so true that it has become the definitive statement about Lou Reed and the Velvets.

Perfect Day

“Perfect Day” is probably Lou Reed’s most frequently covered song.  Here’s the (audio only) original:

Perfect Cover

And, from the BBC, here’s the perfect cover version: