Art

Hang Him on my Wall

by George Wayne Photographed by David Gamble
Thursday, November 16, 2017
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The queens in The Factory claimed that Andy Warhol’s nickname, Drella, was shorthand for Dreadful Puella; the second word means “the girl” in Latin. Other say it is a contraction of Cinderella, or Cinderella crossed with Dracula. All I know is that unlike Count Dracula’s Bran Castle, few visited Andy Warhol’s own private Transylvania. I have spoken to many, many so-called Warhol acolytes and confidants, and all say the same. Warhol never entertained. They were never once invited to his home!


So few had or have a clue what Andy Warhol’s private life looked like. Until now. Thanks to the unerring eye of the British-born photographer David Gamble, we can all peek into that home, on East 66th Street, and explore the realm, as well as some of the ephemera, that was Andy Warhol.


In 1988, shortly after the artist’s death, Gamble was offered the assignment of a lifetime by Fred W. Hughes, Warhol’s business partner and executor,  and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, to photograph and document his private residence exactly the way he left it.


Where did Andy Warhol hang his wigs when he stumbled home from Studio 54? Children, you are about to find out! And what was really stashed behind the mirrored cabinet in his bathroom? Suffice it to say, Andy Warhol loved his expensive wrinkle cremes and his pills. Now, on these pages, you can see it all for yourself! 


George Wayne: How did you come to photograph the Warhol lair for the estate sale?


David Gamble: June Stanier at the Observer Magazine [in London] called me. Apparently [Warhol’s business manager] Fred Hughes [had] contacted the Observer. I’d always wanted to photograph Andy Warhol. So now he was dead, and I thought, at least I get to a make a portrait from what I find in his house.


GW: Can you talk about your background and your career?


DG: Born in East London in the late ’50s. Grew up in the countryside near Cambridge. I could always draw, make things. [And] taking photos was also part of that. I remember my school taking us to Whitechapel Art Gallery in London [when I was] twelve. I saw my first Pop Art exhibit. 1965. It was a life-changing moment. Warhol became real to me. Got myself into Ealing Art School in 1976, ate mayonnaise on toast for three years, and bought a camera. Did a post grad[uate program] and [spent four] years as an assistant. Then given my first shoot for the Observer. Worked for nearly every major magazine in the world through the ’90s, including Tina Brown’s New Yorker. In the collections of the National Portrait Galleries   in London and Washington, as well as the Warhol Museum, Guild Hall in East Hampton, etc.


GW: Did you ever meet Warhol?


DG: I almost met Andy one night whilst dining at the Algonquin Hotel. I had sat down to dinner when the maître’d came over and asked if I would mind wearing one of their jackets, as he thought mine was inappropriate. A waiter bought over a hideous brown plaid men’s sports jacket. Its sleeves came just below my elbows. I looked a complete bozo. At the table next to us, Andy Warhol was dining with two friends. If I hadn’t been wearing that dumb jacket I would gone over to say hello. That was the only time I saw him alive.


GW: How did you manage to keep these images under lock and key for so long? Did the Warhol estate insist that these images not be ever shown to the rest of the world?


DG: I have always insisted on full copyright on all my pictures. Even when commissioned by a publication. My fees are for first single usage only. So Fred Hughes and the foundation happily agreed. Fred was desperate to use me to get the work published in London and Europe before the big auction in 1988. It was the first celebrity auction, setting the mold for future auctions such as [those for] Princess Diana and Wallis Simpson, where [the] value of an item is based on who owned it. [After that,] I just put them away in a drawer. I knew they were good and that one day I would bring them out.


What [did you think about] Warhol’s collection of other artists?

Andy loved collecting his contemporaries’ work. He had, of course, Jasper Johns and Roy Lichtenstein, but also Kenny Scharf and Duchamp. Andy had a great sense for quality. It showed in his obsessive collecting. He loved watches, jewelry, cookie jars.


So what was it like that day when you first walked into Andy Warhol’s brownstone?

It was a redbrick townhouse, narrow and tall. It had a simple, marble-floored entrance hall. The staircase was on the left, lined with old black-and-white photographs of Native Americans. There was a five-foot 19th-century wooden Punch standing at the foot. Upstairs was this nice curved entrance to the two main rooms.


At the front was his living room. Big tall windows. Expensive Deco furniture and Pop Art. Lichtenstein’s Cat and Jasper Johns’ 7 painting. A Duchamp print was on a small artist’s easel. I liked the ’30s Bakelite and silver milk jug shaped as a penis sitting on the table. Tacky track lighting, which I thought odd. The other room was completely different, dressed as a parlor. It could have been the drawing room of Sherlock Holmes rather than a pop artist’s house. It had heavy, red velvet drape curtains and Victorian Egyptian artifacts, including gold lion-carved Egyptian-styled chairs, Primitive American art on the walls and a strange old small master painting on an easel. I had the feeling Jed Johnson, the famous interior designer, had an influence when he lived with Andy. He was Andy’s last live-in partner. The floor above was Andy’s bedroom, a small guest room and the main bathroom en suite. Andy’s room had very nice detailed print on the walls and a lovely white carved marble fireplace. He had videos and a teddy bear in the room. The bed was very high and bland. The small room had a beautiful Maxfield Parrish and a Mexican crucifix in it.


And of course the scoop of the decade: The photos of Andy Warhol’s bathroom cabinet! Andy loved his Clinique and his Vitabath! Who knew?!

When I looked at the medicine cabinet I really felt this was [the] closest [I’d come] to photographing a portrait of Andy Warhol. This was why I was in his house. I loved there was [so little] of intrinsic value. Banal ordinary objects that said a lot about the personal life of its owner. So this was the first medicine-cabinet-of-an-artist picture. Damien Hirst made his more than a year after it was published full page in the Observer in April 1988. I was flattered he thought it was such a great idea.


I love the British trash bin with all that Tupperware. Andy Warhol’s kitchen: such a simple kitchen!

Yes, I didn’t move anything. Exactly as it was. All the Fiestaware, really bad Polish art on the wall, and I liked the fact he had a Brit trash can. I always think [of] his mother sitting like Whistler’s mother on that chair, waiting while she warmed yet another can of Campbell’s soup for her son.


Tell GW the best anecdote, story or recollection of Andy Warhol that you have ever heard.

Truman Capote said that Andy Warhol was a sphinx without a secret. I love [that] Andy wore a wonderful disguise: the wig and glasses. I don’t think there is a photo without him wearing them. [But] perhaps he walked around New York without them. Nobody would have known. Not even his friends. So I photographed the wig and glasses in his house next to his Egyptian figures of the afterlife, Ramses and Isis.


Andy was so, so private! He never invited anyone to his home. He never entertained at home. He went out every night of the week!


That’s true. Not many people were invited to even stand in the entrance hall. That’s why the house was a complete surprise to many who knew him. I think Jed Johnson was the last person to stay there, [though] his mother stayed with him there for a while before she died.


When Andy Warhol showed up in the room anywhere in New York City, it was beyond a bolt of electricity. The room suddenly charged! Andy is here! And we all knew that we were in the place to be. That all died with Andy. New York is still not the same.

That’s true—there is nobody to replace him. 


 


  





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