Before the digital age of smartphones and selfies, there was nothing more immediate than a Polaroid. And there is perhaps no other artist who is better able to bridge the gap between the artistry of analog photography and the instant gratification of digital photography than Andy Warhol. This pioneer of pop art used photography as a basis for all his artwork and was rarely seen without his trusted SX-70 Polaroid camera.
Warhol documented every moment of his time in New York during the 1970s and 1980s, helping immortalize the friends, collectors, and celebrities who circled him. Carrying his camera everywhere, he snapped portraits both as a way to “collect” his memories and prepare for his silk screens. The famed artist also turned the camera toward himself, taking self-portraits that are an aloof, disconnected look at his own face.
Warhol preciously guarded his Polaroids, relentlessly chronicling life up until his death in 1987. Now, over 60 of his Polaroid portraits and self-portraits are on display in an exhibit, aptly titled Andy Warhol Polaroid Pictures, at BASTIAN in London. The show gives a glimpse into Warhol’s inner circle and is an incredible record of a society dominated by image and illusion.
These stripped down visions of well-known celebrities like Liza Minelli and Jane Fonda cut to the core of Warhol’s prowess as a photographer. A force of nature, Warhol was able to gain access to all walks of life, placing them each on a level playing field. “Who could feel threatened by the weird guy in the pale wig who talked like a child and took photos that looked like your six-year-old might have snapped them?,” writes Blake Glopnik. “But there’s a tough edge to what Warhol got up to, since anything that’s cataloged is ultimately brought down to the same level as all the other objects in the inventory.”
Andy Warhol Polaroid Pictures will be on view at BASTIAN in London from February 2 to April 13, 2019.