in Frieze | 06 MAY 94
Featured in
Issue 16

My Portrait by Andy

After I met Bruno Bischofberger in early 1986, it didn't take long for him to realise that I was pretty obsessed with Andy Warhol.

in Frieze | 06 MAY 94

A few months later, in his usual generous way, Bruno let me know that he'd suggested to Fred Hughes that it might be interesting for Andy to do a portrait of me, especially since Andy liked to trade portraits for works by up-and-coming young artists.

I was rather non-committal because by that time I'd come to associate portraits by Warhol with people like Diane von Furstenberg and Warhol himself with neo-Expressionist artists like Basquiat, Clemente, and Schnabel. At that point, it was very important for me to try to say that art could be something other than fashion-conscious and anti-intellectual (like neo-Expressionism). So I wasn't too sure I wanted to get involved.

Nevertheless, an invitation came, via Bruno, to visit with Warhol and get a tour of the Warhol Studios, and that was something I just couldn't pass up. Actually, the Warhol people cancelled three times, but finally, in November '86, I did make it over to the last Factory for lunch.

I was really nervous. After all, it's strange to imagine meeting someone you've thought about every day for 15 years. When I arrived, there was an array of people, including Bruno and Yoyo Bischofberger, Fred Hughes, and an Australian curator who seemed to be desperate for Factory-style attention, all sitting around an Art Deco-ish dining table munching on pasta salad. But there was no Andy. After a while he shyly wandered in with a crumpled brown paper bag containing a gift for Yoyo. He sat down but didn't eat. He just drank herbal tea.

I wasn't sure what I was going to think of Warhol, because I suspected he'd become too compromised in terms of his 80s activities. But I went away with the impression that this was just about the most extraordinary human being I'd ever met. He didn't talk very much, but he seemed so unbelievably aware of and receptive to everything going on around him. Other people have said this before, but it was as if he had better or more sensitive radar than anyone else. He also seemed to me sort of like a gentle hippie - which I certainly didn't expect. And he moved like a much younger person - he was positively sprightly - so it was hard to believe when he died a few months later.

I didn't think I was there to have my portrait done, but it soon became apparent that I was at least expected to have my picture taken, no matter how much I hemmed and hawed. It was a curiously sexual experience. Andy used an old style Polaroid camera called a 'Big Shot', with a long cone-like protuberance on the front. I sat in a chair. Warhol crouched over and rocked slowly backward and forward as he took pictures - it was like getting very gently humped.

I really regret that I never got to tell Warhol how much I've modelled my attitudes and even my behaviour on his books and things I've read about him. For example, Warhol once said that he'd believe he was famous if he knew that Picasso had heard of him. I kind of felt the same thing about Warhol; but I never could figure out if he knew anything about my work, although I knew Fred Hughes did.

I talked to Warhol one more time before he died. I was at a reception at Mr. Chow's after an opening at the Whitney. As usual, I'd eaten dinner beforehand, because Warhol once said only rich people could eat and talk at the same time, so, since I like to talk, I thought it was a good idea not to eat. There were a lot of people I knew there, and I ended up going through the buffet line a number of times, talking with different people and then leaving them when they went to pick up their food. At the end of the party, I spotted Andy and went up to try to say hi. He said, 'I saw you go through the buffet line five times.' I wish I'd told him I was just following his advice.

A couple of weeks after Warhol died, Bruno and Yoyo came to New York and visited my studio. Bruno said, 'I've got a surprise for you,' and produced a Polaroid of three portraits of me - two silver ones (I think Warhol knew artists liked silver) and one on a white background that's like a double exposure where I have four eyes all lined up. I told friends that I thought I looked more like the scion of a Greek shipping fortune than an artist. But they're great anyway.