Portraying the Patron: Andy Warhol and the Bechtlers
On June 3, 1968, the militant feminist writer Valerie Solanas shot Andy Warhol at The Factory, his famous studio/club house in New York City. Although two bullets missed Warhol, the third went through his spleen, liver, stomach, both lungs, and esophagus. He almost died during the five-hour surgery that followed, and remained bedridden for three months afterward. While at home, he painted small portraits of Mrs. Nelson Rockefeller, marking his return to portraiture, a theme that had preoccupied him since the 1950s and dominated his output for the remainder of his life. Through commissioned portraits, Warhol could control his public interactions and reliably earn a living.
The Bechtler family were serious collectors who filled their homes and offices with artwork, making personal connections with artists whenever possible. Although the Bechtlers and Warhol did not have a friendship, they intersected at a pivotal moment in Warhol's life: a time of great vulnerability and uncertainty as Warhol sought to recover perspective and equilibrium after nearly dying at the hand of a former Factory acquaintance. This exhibition celebrates that personal interaction between Warhol and the Bechtlers. Andy Warhol’s silkscreen portraits of the family will hang alongside corresponding Polaroid photos, along with ephemera contextualizing that time in Warhol’s career. Also included in the exhibition will be a video interview with Andreas Bechtler and his first wife, Natascha, recounting the experience of meeting Warhol and having Polaroid images taken for the portraits.
Andy Warhol, Hans Bechtler, 1973, Polaroid Polacolor Type SX-70, 3 ½ x 5 ½ in. © 2015 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Andy Warhol used his Polaroid camera the way conventional artists used a sketchpad. Whether making studies of portrait sitters, a pair of women’s high heels, or a grinning Howdy Doody puppet, he would snap a series of photographs featuring different angles and poses, minimizing the background so that the subject remained the sole focus. The results were distinguished by the flattened compositions and washed-out lighting unique to this commercial contraption. After reviewing these studies, Warhol could select his favorite and print it directly onto canvas by transferring the photographic image to a silkscreen.