The intriguing thing about the opening night of the Andy Warhol retrospective in Manhattan was its tameness. MOMA (the Museum of Modern Art) can seldom have looked so respectable while being at the same time, in a faintly macabre way, en fête. I could have got in without a black tie, but would have looked wildly conspicuous in mufti and was glad to have observed the protocol of the invitation. The event had the feel of a fundraiser for the Republicans (or, admittedly, in these days of high-tab politics, the Democrats). Since Warhol had in his time - then just drawn to an end - been sounded out for the post of Jimmy Carter's official photographer, and gone on to grace the glitz-infested dinner table of Ronnie and Nancy, this didn't seem inapposite. The pictures on the walls looked as familiar and predictable as the people. Surely that's Marilyn. And look - there's Jackie. There, reassuringly, is the Campbell's soup can. In fact, there it is again - and again. It's barely even a shock to see the late Andy Warhol himself, holding a small crowd in the angle of the staircase and sporting that unmistakable silver wig. Those who cluster round are careful to betray no sign of excitement, engagement or curiosity. Could this impersonator be the renowned Alan Midgette, who in 1967 'stood in' for Andy at the University of Utah, of all places, and had the students demanding their thousand-dollar fee back? Warhol's hope had been, 'Maybe they'll like him better than me,' but surely there was some faint private relief on his part that this particular con didn't work.
LRB 12 October 1989 | PDF Download