The Secret World of Andy Warhol


Well I see the new Whitney has an Andy Warhol show going on, and I really must get down there, in my fabled guise of Art Reviewer. Stay tuned.

The Atlantic recently did a nice piece on Andy, far superior to most of what one reads in that rag. (I’ll give a link farther down.) But it got me wondering: how much more IS there to know about An-dee?

I met the guy only once, during his last years. He was going around with Rupert Smith one evening around Third Avenue and 13th Street, handing out copies of Interview. Or maybe just carrying copies of Interview. Rupert was in his last years, too. This was maybe April of 1984.

After Andy died I tried phoning Rupert. A friend answered, thought I was trying to collect money he owed me. After a few conversational hiccups, it came out that Rupert was dead too.

Funny thing is, in the late 70s, early 80s, everyday people who were not in the Andy orbit thought of Warhol as a bird that had flown, a Sixties relic who might have been cool in the Edie Sedgwick era, but not anymore. Just a step up from Ed Wood as a practitioner of deliberately bad art.

Nobody saw what staying power Andy would have. Except maybe for Andy.

Here’s a sample of that Stephen Metcalf piece in The Atlantic:

After graduating in 1949, Warhol moved to New York City, and quickly became known as, in one graphic designer’s words, “the best shoe drawer in New York City.” He was hired by the I. Miller company to produce images for its weekly footwear ads in The New York Times. He did illustrations for the slickest magazines and piecework for the biggest corporate accounts, made Christmas cards for Tiffany and perfume ads for Bonwit Teller. He borrowed a technique from the Lithuanian-born American painter Ben Shahn of tracing a sketch in ink, then pressing the wet ink against a piece of absorbent blotting paper to transfer the image. It made for a sensitive line, a line with perceptible temperament, but by a process of reproduction that troubled any idea of an “original” version touched by the artist’s hand.

And here’s the whole thing:

rupert andy

Rupert and Andy on the Fire Island ferry around 1979. I met Rupert about this time. No Andy.

Author: Cooper Ward

Cooper Ward hails from Lake Plains, IL, which he describes as “the flattest place east of Nebraska.” He enjoys watching cooking shows and listening to semi-classical music.