“Art is anything you can get away with,” Andy Warhol once supposedly quipped—though most ascribe the original line to media theorist Marshall McLuhan. Either way, Warhol famously got away with a lot under the banner of art, changing the way we looked at it, thought about it and experienced it. That revolutionary instinct is explored in Andy Warhol—From A to B and Back Again, his first full-scale museum retrospective in close to three decades, on view now through March 31 at the Whitney Museum of American Art. But for Warhol, New York City itself was a form of art—a canvas, a medium and inspiration.
Warhol moved to NYC from his native Pittsburgh in 1949 to embark on a career as a commercial illustrator, and discovered a city where outcasts could become superstars, art could be found in department stores and nothing was ever what it seemed (unless it was). The mark Warhol left on New York continues to linger and, in many ways, mirrors the one he left on the culture, blurring the lines we still draw between high and low, mainstream and rarified, local and tourist. In fact, one of Warhol’s great contrarian lessons about New York is that despite calling the Upper East Side home for close to four decades, he never stopped living like a visitor. That, to him, was a condition to which we should all aspire: to be able to look at the world—even the familiar one—in new ways.
Visit these spots to see NYC Andy’s way.
18 E. 77th St., 212-249-4470, Upper East Side, Manhattan; 24 W. 40th St., 212-249-4470, Midtown West, Manhattan
Leo Castelli didn’t invent pop art, but he did help turn it into big business. Castelli Gallery, inaugurated in 1957 in his Upper East Side apartment, quickly developed a reputation for representing the bleeding edge of American artists—Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein and the like. The gallery took on Warhol too, but it almost didn’t happen. In 1960, at the suggestion of his gallery director, Ivan Karp, Castelli visited Warhol’s studio to view some of the artist’s comics-inspired pieces. Castelli thought the paintings were too close to the work of Lichtenstein, whom the gallery already represented, and decided to pass. He came to represent Warhol in 1964, going on to show some of Warhol’s most famous works, including the Flowers series.
225 E. 60th St., 212-838-3531, Midtown East, Manhattan
Jacqueline Kennedy and her sister Lee Radziwill have eaten there. So have Marilyn Monroe, Kim Kardashian, Beyoncé and Jay-Z. But Andy Warhol got to Serendipity 3 before any of them. Stephen Bruce, Patch Caradine and Calvin Holt opened the tiny coffee shop and confectionery that would become a New York institution in 1954. The original, a tiny space on East 58th Street, was filled with found objects like clocks, street signs and old Tiffany lamps—an aesthetic Warhol so admired that he asked the owners to decorate his apartment. But it was the boîte’s adventurous array of sweet treats and desserts that kept him coming back. Warhol is said to have favored the Lemon Ice Box Pie, but Serendipity 3’s signature Frrrozen Hot Chocolate, a high-octane blended-and-chilled cocoa concoction, continues to be a top seller, and its $1,000 Golden Opulence Sundae the stuff of urban mythmaking.
Museum of Modern Art
11 W. 53rd St., 212-708-9400, Midtown, Manhattan
Though Warhol had success as a commercial artist, working for magazines such as Glamour and Harper’s Bazaar, and designing ads and windows for the likes of I. Miller and Bonwit Teller, rejection was a common theme in his early quest to break through in the world of fine art. Some dealers and curators ignored him, while others, like Alfred H. Barr Jr., then director of collections at the Museum of Modern Art, politely turned him away. “Dear Mr. Warhol,” began a letter to Warhol from Barr dated October 18, 1956, regarding a drawing called Shoe that Warhol had offered the museum as a gift. “I regret that I must report to you that the Committee decided, after careful consideration, that they ought not to accept it for our Collection.” He concluded, “The drawing may be picked up from the Museum at your convenience.” MoMA now counts more than 240 of Warhol’s pieces amongst those in its permanent collection, including Gold Marilyn Monroe pictured here—as well as a number of shoe drawings.
Empire State Building
20 W. 34th St., 212-736-3100, Midtown, Manhattan
By the mid-1960s Warhol had ventured into film, with one of his best-known works starring not a person but a building. The artist’s conceptual 1964 opus, Empire, consists of a single long, lingering shot of the Empire State Building. The speed of the film was slowed down for added effect, resulting in a finished work with a slightly surreal quality that clocks in at eight hours and five minutes. Jonas Mekas—a legendary filmmaker in his own right—served as director of photography on Empire, which was shot from the Rockefeller Foundation offices on the 41st floor of the Time-Life Building over the evening hours of July 25, 1964, into the wee hours of the following day. The film continues to be one of the artist’s most confounding works, hailed by some as a landmark of avant-garde cinema (including Mekas, who also served as the Village Voice’s film critic). Others consider it almost impossible to watch.
19–25 St. Mark’s Place, East Village, Manhattan
Hoist a slush-o to the Dom. Now home to a Mango Mango Dessert (and St. Mark’s Market), the lot occupied by 19–25 St. Mark’s Place was once the epicenter of Warholian nightlife. In the mid-1960s, the artist’s nightclub, the Dom, later known as Electric Circus, played host to his multimedia exhibition-party extravaganza the Erupting Plastic Inevitable (later—and better—known as the Exploding Plastic Inevitable). In 1966, the venue had the distinction of installing as its house band a then-unknown musical act dubbed The Velvet Underground, which performed with German model-chanteuse Nico, who also co-starred in Warhol’s most commercially successful foray into cinema, Chelsea Girls. The Velvets, led by principal songwriters Lou Reed and John Cale, along with bassist Sterling Morrison and drummer Moe Tucker, emerged on the cusp of a rising creative tide in the East Village that would eventually spawn Sam Shepard, Patti Smith, Robert Mapplethorpe and Richard Hell, along with a bevy of alternative galleries and performance spaces.
180 Prince St., 212-966-3518, Soho, Manhattan
Leo Castelli opened a second gallery, at 420 West Broadway, in 1971. At the time, the art world had already begun to colonize Soho, with artists and art dealers taking over and transforming empty loft spaces into studios and galleries. At the center of the swirl was Raoul’s, a French restaurant that was opened in 1975 by two brothers from Alsace, Serge and Guy Raoul. Theirs was an old-school bistro with several New York twists: a local joint where one could get a surprisingly good steak au poivre (their signature dish); enjoy a stiff drink alongside Donald Judd or Cindy Sherman; or perhaps catch the head waiter performing Dusty Springfield songs in drag. Raoul’s soon became a place where artists, dealers and writers would convene, a place to eat and imbibe but also one to be seen in—which, of course, appealed to Warhol, who frequented the restaurant throughout the 1970s and ’80s, enthralled by the theater of it all.
Dean & Deluca
560 Broadway, 212-226-6800, Soho, Manhattan
With the influx of artists (and people who wanted to be around artists), Soho needed a supermarket, and Joel Dean, Giorgio DeLuca and Jack Ceglic obliged. Dean & Deluca, purveyor of fine foods, has kept downtown in fresh produce, prepared meals and gourmet delicacies since 1977. Warhol was a frequent customer of the market’s original Soho location at Prince and Greene Streets. (Dean & Deluca moved to its current Soho spot, on the corner Prince and Broadway in 1988, a year after Warhol’s death.) It was at Dean & Deluca that Warhol introduced Jean-Michel Basquiat to the market’s resplendent selection of caviar, which Basquiat then took to buying in large quantities, a predilection referenced in a scene from Julian Schnabel’s 1996 biopic Basquiat, (for which David Bowie donned a white wig to play Warhol).
145 West Broadway, 212-233-0507, Tribeca, Manhattan
On a then-desolate corner of West Broadway in Tribeca, brothers Brian and Keith McNally, along with Keith’s future (and now former) wife Lynn Wagenknecht, opened The Odeon in 1980. With its democratic menu, no-frills retro decor and proximity to Soho, the restaurant quickly became an art-world clubhouse (and hosted more than a few Saturday Night Live after-parties). For Warhol, the restaurant often served as an early evening stop-off before a trip to 1980s-era clubs like Area or The Palladium. In a diary entry from September 13, 1985, he recounted a night out with Jean-Michael Basquiat and Keith Haring that begins—and probably should have ended—at Odeon. “Dinner was cheap, I guess, because nobody drank,” Warhol recalled. “Then we went in the limo to the Palladium. Stayed an hour or two. The only person I saw was David Lee Roth.”
254 W. 54th St., 212-719-1300, Midtown West, Manhattan
The seat of 1970s nightlife lore, Studio 54 was where Warhol communed with the likes of Truman Capote, Mick Jagger, Diane von Furstenberg and Liza Minelli, and where Jagger’s then wife, Bianca, was famously photographed riding onto the dance floor atop a gleaming white horse. (Now an animal rights advocate, Jagger has sought once and for all to debunk the myth that she arrived on the horse, offering that she simply got on a horse that was already there.) The original Studio 54 closed in 1980; since 1998, the site of Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager’s fabled nightclub has been home to the esteemed Roundabout Theatre Company.
324 E. 57th St,, 212-751-9030, Midtown East, Manhattan; 121 Hudson St., 212-965-9500, Tribeca, Manhattan
There’s no quicker way to get a taste of the New York art world from the 1980s than with a visit to Mr. Chow. The boom years that gave rise to Julian Schnabel, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and a host of others provided the cast for Warhol’s third act. The 57th Street branch of Michael Chow’s transatlantic empire of haute Chinese cuisine, which opened in 1979, operated as an uptown venue for the art world, as famous for its Peking duck and pulled noodles as its glittery clientele.
Jefferson Market Garden
425 Sixth Ave., 212-243-4334, West Village, Manhattan
The patch of land where Greenwich Avenue and Avenue of the Americas converge near West 10th Street has a checkered history. Jefferson Market Library used to be a courthouse, and the immaculately manicured garden beside used to be the site of the New York Women’s House of Detention—and before that a coed prison. Mae West was once detained there, as was Angela Davis. Warhol’s connection came via S.C.U.M. Manifesto author Valerie Solanas, who was held there briefly after she shot Warhol in his Union Square Factory in 1968—an event that would loom large over the rest of Warhol’s life. The prison closed in 1971 and the building was demolished shortly thereafter. In 1974, the site was redeveloped as a community garden.
1000 Third Ave., 212-705-2000, Midtown East, Manhattan; 504 Broadway, 212-729-5900, Soho, Manhattan
Warhol was a great accumulator—and an elite shopper by any measure. “King Tut is a good parallel” is how his close friend Paige Powell described his acquisitiveness on the occasion of a 1988 auction at Sotheby’s of more than 10,000 of his personal effects, ranging from valuable pieces of art deco furniture and contemporary art to collections of cookie jars and Popeye watches. If shopping was Warhol’s religion, then Bloomingdale’s was his primary place of worship. The flagship at 59th and Lexington was a short walk from his townhouse on East 66th Street, and Warhol liked to slip into the store’s mix of design, desire, consumerism and anonymity. He once described Bloomingdale’s—without a shred of his trademark irony—as a “new kind of museum for the ’80s.”
430 Lafayette St., 212-505-5111, Greenwich Village, Manhattan
With its neon signage, colonial French-Vietnamese menu, distinctive palm-print wallpaper and black-and-white checkered floor, Indochine wasn’t an obvious classic when it opened in 1984, but it was an instant one. Brian McNally’s East Village restaurant across from the Public Theater first greeted the world with a star-studded after-party for a Julian Schnabel exhibition attended by Warhol, Basquiat and the rest of the high-1980s art world crew. (So proud is Indochine of its creative heritage that an ad for the restaurant from this decade featured a Jean-Philippe Delhomme illustration of Warhol and Basquiat at one of the banquettes.) McNally exited Indochine in 1992, but unlike so many other downtown hot spots of the era, it has retained its own unmistakable air of cool and remains popular with artists, celebrities and fashion folk. Even if it’s no longer where they head out in search of wild nights, it has become something that, in some ways, is even more rare and special: the place they go to have family dinner.
The Former Factories
231 E. 47th St., Midtown East, Manhattan; 33 Union Square West, Union Square, Manhattan; 860 Broadway, Union Square, Manhattan; 22 E. 33rd St., Murray Hill, Manhattan
One of Warhol’s most radical moves was to refer to his studio as The Factory, a term that smacked of manual labor, assembly lines and industry (as opposed to the more desirable artistic cocktail of ennui, loneliness, starving and garrets). Not much today remains of Warhol’s Factories. The complex on East 47th Street that housed the original Factory—known for a time as “The Silver Factory” after Warhol archivist Billy Name decorated it in cool metallic tones after Warhol’s Silver Cloud series—was torn down in the late 1960s; the site is now a parking lot. The Decker Building on Union Square West, where Warhol started Interview magazine and was shot by Valerie Solanas, now sports a Dylan’s Candy Bar at street level—which Warhol, with his rabid sweet tooth, would no doubt have welcomed. Below the second Union Square Factory, at 860 Broadway, sits a Petco; the site of the final Factory, at 22 E. 33rd Street, holds a modern glass-and-steel commercial building.