At first, writer and critic Bob Colacello didn’t like talking about his dear, famous friend Andy Warhol. They were close collaborators for 13 years, after Colacello hailed an early Warhol film in the seminal New York Alt-Weekly, The Village Voice. However, he tended to want to discuss just about anything else. Colacello eventually came to grips with the significant role that the influential New York artist played in his life and figured why shy away from discussing it? Now, Colacello says if you “push the Warhol button on my back, you’ll get all these Andy stories.” That’s what guests should expect this Thursday, when Calacello presents his “Portrait of the Pope of Pop” at the Cummer Museum.
Colacello will give a two hour lecture about the legendary artist. He says most people know Warhol for his paintings or films, but as a person he remains a mystery.
“What I try to do in my lectures is make Andy come alive as a person, as a human being,” Colacello said in a phone interview from New York.
The two met by chance back when Colacello was in college. Colacello was taking a film critique class and had several of his reviews published in the Voice. Warhol saw these and took an interest, asking Calacello to write for Warhol’s newly founded magazine, Interview. The two became fast friends, spending almost every night together, going to movies, museums and other social gatherings during what is now thought of as one of the most artistically fertile time periods in NYC’s hallowed history. Colacello said getting to know Warhol during this time gave him the extra insight into the artist’s unique mind. It’s why he is the best person to ask about Warhol and his work.
“[Warhol] is just like any other person, you spend time with them and you get to see how his mind works and the process of how these things came to be,” said Colacello. “I’m his translator. English to English.”
One of the installations that will be on display at the Cummer event will be Warhol’s famous “Ten Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century.” This is a series of ten prints of influential and brilliant Jewish figures from that century, including the likes of The Marx brothers, Franz Kafka and Albert Einstein. Colacello will add an extra layer of depth to the work when he speaks about it at the event.
“We called it the ‘Jewish Genius Series,’” Colacello said. “We came up with over a thousand [important Jewish figures] and Andy narrowed it down to the 10.”
Colacello will also discuss Warhol’s formative years, when the young, budding artist was selected in a group of uniquely talented art students in his elementary school to attend The Carnegie Museum of Art to study art history. There, Warhol learned about distinctive, individualistic figures like Picasso who became extremely influential to him (and who he wanted to surpass). Warhol knew his art history, according to Calacello, even though he pretended he didn’t.
Colacello will also discuss several of figures important to both him and Warhol and why they were chosen to be in the piece. For example, he said Gertrude Stein was added because Warhol could heavily relate to her. Stein was a collector and friend of Picasso’s, someone Warhol revered, and was also gay. Warhol was also a fan of the Marx Brothers’ films and grew up going to movies every weekend and collecting the autographs of famous Hollywood actors. Colacello could relate to at least one of the names himself, telling the story about how his mother would constantly compare his dramatic sister Barbara to actress Sarah Bernhardt as a kid.
Calacello says Warhol-philes attending the Cummer lecture should come with questions, which he’ll be happy to answer. For tickets, visit the Cummer Museum website.