SILVER AND SUEDE: HALSTON AT THE ANDY WARHOL MUSEUM

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While in Pittsburgh, I was thrilled to catch Halston and Warhol: Silver and Suede at the Warhol museum. As an ardent admirer of both Halston and Warhol, this exhibit seemed to be curated just for me!

The press release:

The exhibition examines the interconnected lives and creative practices of Andy Warhol and Halston – two American icons who had a profound impact on the development of 20th century art and fashion.  Organized by The Andy Warhol Museum and Lesley Frowick (the niece of Halston), the exhibition integrates Halston’s garments and accessories with photography, video and paintings by Warhol.

Not only did Halston collect Warhol’s artwork, which he displayed in his 63rd Street Manhattan townhouse and Montauk retreat rented from Warhol, but Halston was also portrayed in several of Warhol’s artworks.  In 1979, Warhol dedicated a chapter of his book, Andy Warhol’s Exposures, to Halston, describing him as the ‘first All-American fashion designer.’

The exhibition will include approximately 40 of Halston’s creations including an iconic pillbox hat designed for Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in 1961, and his signature Ultrasuede shirtdress, juxtaposed with Warhol’s paintings, photographs, and videos.  It will also feature archival material and ephemera from the archives of The Warhol and the personal collection of Lesley Frowick relating to the two artists’ practices

A beautifully rendered timeline documenting the lives and careers of Halston and Warhol illuminates striking parallels between to the two artists. Both men worked in fashion early in their careers (hat design for Halston, illustration for Warhol), became wildly successful in New York, and went on to international acclaim. As American artists, both underwent a type of transformation and evolved to exist in a unique atmosphere at the nexus of art and celebrity.

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By the late 1970’s and into the 1980’s both men were no longer people, but seemed to exist as visual “personas”, Warhol as the eccentric artist with a shock of white hair (widely known to be a wig) and camera permanently in hand, and Halston as the sophisticated designer in black turtleneck and mirrored sunglasses forever surrounded by a flurry of models. This exhibit strips away many cliches that the passage of time has added to and hardened regarding these men.

Both artists became as famous for their words as their work:

Warhol:

What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you can know that the President drinks Coke. Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too.

Halston:

I think everybody should have furs, jewels, and Andy Warhol paintings.

That both Halston and Warhol discovered high/low cultural connections in various facets of their work also radiates throughout this exhibit. Warhol took everyday objects like soup cans and images of celebrities and transformed them into colorful larger-than-life renderings. Halston took the glamour of his design work to everything from fragrance, carpets, the girl scouts and JC Penney. While the latter ultimately led to Halston’s demise as a business, today fashion has a very symbiotic relationship with mass-retail as demonstrated by Philip Lim for Target,  Alexander Wang for H&M, and even Nicki Minaj for Kmart.

Other highlights of this exhibit include mounted ipads in which one can swipe through unseen Halston sketches for celebrity clients (including Martha Graham), Warhol’s original prints for (and of ) Halston, and rare photographs of Halston at Warhol’s Montauk home.

I salute and revere these two American artists!

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