LONDON – An exhibition of Andy Warhol photographs – including works that have never been seen before – previewed on Wednesday at the launch of the Bastian gallery in the United Kingdom’s capital London.
To mark the opening of the Berlin-based Bastian gallery’s London venue, the debut exhibition turns to Warhol – one of the most influential artists of the 20th century – for a retrospective of some 60 polaroid images captured by the American artist.
Warhol experimented with Polaroids, particularly during the 1970s when the camera was first developed, Aeneas Bastian, son of the founders of the Bastian gallery, told the press on Wednesday.
He was seeking an alternative to the photos traditional cameras were able to take, Bastian added.
When Warhol first started using polaroids his intent was to use them as drafts for his well-known screen prints, however, the vast library of candid images he took of friends, family, lovers, artists and socialites have become a valuable visual archive of 1970s and 80s New York culture.
The photography exhibition offers an intimate portrait of the American city at a time when a new visual language was emerging, Bastian said.
There are many well-known faces depicted in the images, among them David Bowie, Paloma Picasso, Lou Reed, Jack Nicholson, John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Truman Capote, Jane Fonda, Muhammad Ali, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Yves Saint-Laurent, David Hockney, Candy Darling and Mick Jagger.
Among the photos that have never been exhibited before were portraits of German conceptual and performance artist Joseph Beuys, English painter and collage artist Richard Hamilton and a series of self-portraits.
“Self Portrait” (1979), a rare larger print polaroid measuring 81.3 x 55.9 centimeters (32 x 22 inches), shows Warhol sporting sunglasses, looking into the camera with a serious expression and half of his face in shadow.
Bastian suggested the large print generates an intimate and personal encounter with the artist who in equal measure projects a certain distance and aloofness, characteristic of the celebrity culture that began to be prevalent at the time.
Warhol was obsessed with documenting every detail of his life, something he did first with his tape recorder and later with a Polaroid camera, often taking over 200 takes of each shot.
When talking about his polaroids, Warhol said in an interview with the BBC in 1981 “there’s something about the camera that just makes the person look just right.”
The master of the pop art movement used Polaroid’s Big Shot camera, first released in 1971 and produced only until 1973.
Warhol (1928-1987), a founding father of pop art, explored the relationship between popular culture, advertising and celebrity culture in his work.
The exhibition “Andy Warhol Polaroid Pictures” runs at the Bastian in London from Feb. 2 to April 13.