Culture

Go behind the scenes of the original influencer, Andy Warhol

Proud Central's latest exhibition of Nat Finkelstein's photos allows a glimpse at how Andy Warhol created his long-lasting legacy

Andy Warhol was a figure unlike anything the world had seen before. His conscious and purposeful drive to establish himself as a pop culture icon in the Sixties and Seventies, being as much a part of his art as the works he created, was lightyears ahead what influencers are doing today through content creation on social media. This resulted in the creation of a persona that, from his blonde hair and dark glasses to his instantly recognisable art, is indelibly printed onto each of our minds. 

In and Out of Warhol’s Orbit: Photographs by Nat Finkelstein, on at Proud Central until May, showcases the photographer’s collection of images from his three year spell in the mid-Sixties documenting The Factory, Warhol’s studio on East 47th Street in New York City. Here, the artist created his paintings, prints and films – and cemented his status as pop culture’s foremost celebrity.

Gerard Malanga, Bob Dylan and Andy Warhol, 1966

Finkelstein’s collection underlines just how powerful Warhol’s understanding of creating a steadfast image that lingers in the public imagination was. In almost every one of Finkelstein’s photographs of The Factory, Warhol stands out, his bright blonde hair and dark glasses dominating every frame – even when sharing the frame with the likes of Bob Dylan, Edie Sedgwick and Mick Jagger. He was the star about whom The Factory orbited, accessorised by a revolving cast of characters who only added to his celebrity, instead of eclipsing it. 

Edie with chain, 1965

The images from Finkelstein’s three years in The Factory show Warhol at work and play, creating his art and entertaining a who’s-who of Sixties models, musicians and actors. But Finkelstein’s behind-the-scenes shots also reveal a glimpse into the darker side of life at The Factory in those heady years, as well as the glamour. Photos of Sedgwick, snapped with a chain in her mouth or posing with The Velvet Underground, are accompanied with a reminder that her tenure at The Factory – and artist-muse relationship with Warhol – was short: it only lasted just over a year, from 1965-1966, before she and Warhol were estranged, and Sedgwick died of an overdose five years later.

Andy with 'Cow Wallpaper', 1965

Finkelstein himself fell out with Warhol, and left The Factory in 1967 to focus on more political photojournalism. But his time spent within Warhol’s orbit produced a collection of images that capture a moment in time like no other. It showcases a Warhol who was at once magnetic and enigmatic, hidden and exposed; he was the emperor of The Factory, and the epicentre of his dark, hedonistic, glamorous world. Finkelstein’s photos may be just a small glimpse into the world that Warhol created, but they’re a testament to the long-lasting power of the brand he created.

From 11 April to 26 May, Proud Central, 2 John Adam Street, Charing Cross, London WC2N 6BP, proudonline.co.uk