Andy Warhol’s self-portrait polaroids in drag, 1981
The Factory, Andy Warhol’s now-iconic New York City studio, is the source of many a story, myth and creative expressionism.
The building itself, which had three different locations between 1962 and 1984, was the amphetamine party-driven hangout spot for the hippest of art types in the city. It’s no secret that, during his time in his studio, Warhol did everything in his power to increase the production of his art and, in doing so, he attracted a ménage of adult film stars, drag queens, socialites, drug addicts and musicians who became known as ‘the Warhol Superstars’. These ‘art-workers’, as he described them, helped him create his paintings, starred in his films, and created the atmosphere for which the Factory became legendary.
It was these Artists Superstars that helped create, develop and depict ‘Warhol’s Queens’ a collection that has now been curated into a book of the same name edited by Norwegian art historian Henriette Dedichen. It is these images that were taken by the Guggenheim Museum for a rare exhibition.
In the words of the museum, the images tell this story: “Andy Warhol enjoyed dressing for parties in drag, sometimes in dresses of his own design. He admired ‘the boys who spend their lives trying to be complete girls’, so in 1981 he and a photographic assistant, Christopher Makos, agreed to collaborate on a session portraying Warhol in drag. In many ways, they modelled the series on Man Ray’s 1920s work with the French artist Marcel Duchamp, in which the two artists created a female alter ego name Rrose Sélavy for Duchamp.
“Warhol and Makos made a number of pictures, both black-and-white prints and colour Polaroids, of their first attempt. For the second round of pictures, they hired a theatre makeup person. This stage professional better understood the challenge of transforming a man’s face into that of a woman. After the makeup, Warhol tried on curled, straight, long, short, dark, and blonde wigs.”