A tribute show to Andy Warhol: the artist, the legend, the….. model!
Currently, on display in New York’s SoHo art heart are never before seen portraits of Andy Warhol; they were taken by artist Karen Bystedt while she was still a student at NYU, which have only recently been restored and recovered after years of being “lost.” Karen Bystedt, the intrepid New York undergraduate – would not let a little thing like Warhol’s worldwide fame and great renown get in the way of her budding inspiration – to publish her book Not Just Another Pretty Face. Bystedt, after seeing him in a Barney’s AD hid within some forgotten GQ Magazine, couldn’t get rid of the idea out of photographing Andy; and so:
Bystedt: I cold called Interview Magazine, of course not expecting Andy to answer the phone…but that is what happened. I immediately recognized his voice! …I said: “Mr. Warhol, I’m Karen Bystedt and I’m working on a book about male models and I would love to photograph you as a model for my book…”
By age nineteen, Karen Bystedt was beyond her years and was no longer interested in your average class project…
Within two weeks, Karen, still nineteen at the time, arrived at Interview Magazine’s headquarters where she met Mr. Warhol in his private conference room. As she remembers it, Andy had seemingly put on his own make-up in such shabby fashion, leaving it caked on his cheeks and forehead as if he were appearing on a Broadway stage. So she did what no other photographer of his had yet the guts to do since he was, after all, the Andy Warhol.
Bystedt: So I took a tissue and said, “Mr. Warhol I’m sorry but I’m going to just even this out.” And he jumped back and said, “Wow, I wish other people would do this. Everyone is so scared to touch me that they just book me for half an hour and then just shove me in the picture. But I want to spend all day hanging out with the models getting their rate too!”
The Knockturnal: You were actualizing one of his dreams?
Bystedt: Correct! In our interview for the book, he shared that he was walking in Paris one day and this shop-owner was staring at him as he walked around. He thought, “Gosh, he’s staring at me because I’m Andy Warhol.” But then the guy came up to him and said: “Aren’t you that model from that Barney’s ad?” He told me that that made his day, his week, his year. I think that’s part of the reason why he allowed me to do a shoot with him.
The Knockturnal: Andy, however, is not your typical beauty, is he?
Bystedt: I think beauty is irrelevant. The beauty of Andy, of course, was his brilliance, his art. I was then, and still am now, an out-of-the-box thinker. Obviously, Andy Warhol was not your typical beautiful male model, but the fact that he was in that Barney’s ad and he looked cool, I thought he was perfect!
The show (178 6th Ave in SoHo), which opened on May 1 and runs through the 22, is indeed a rhapsodic celebration of the spirit of Andy Warhol that must be seen if one is at all interested in the wake that was Warhol; Bystedt has carefully hand-selected artists and invited them to interpret and re-interpret her portraits within a variety of individual artistic sensibilities, from painting, to pastiche, to pop. It was the ultimate liberty to subvert, distort, and play with the pictures she had taken decades earlier… paralleling the Warholian practice of print, design, reprint…
As one walks around the gallery, Warhol’s gentle yet deliberate gestures suddenly become animistic – constantly evolving and shapeshifting from one frame to the next. Yet in that same repetition, each portrait reveals something unique about Andy’s private character. Therein lies the brilliance of the show; these images of Warhol are immortalized in the only way a young artist who has nothing to lose, and everything to gain, can do – and, decades later, now 31 years after his death, has playfully assembled her remembrance of that era of greatness.
Bystedt takes her project one step further by teaming up with God’s Love, We Deliver, the not-for-profit whose initiative it is to provide medically tailored meals, free of charge without regard to income, for individuals who are too sick to shop and cook for themselves. God’s Love Vice President & Chief Development Officer, David Ludwigson agreed that this was a show that Warhol would have loved as he notes that it both compliments the art industry by fulfilling his hearts desire to be on the canvas itself, while simultaneously benefiting the community of New York as a whole (the city Andy came to represent) as all works are for sale with proceeds going directly to God’s Love, We Deliver.