Photo: Edie Sedgwick spread from Factory: Andy Warhol by Stephen Shore, courtesy of Phaidon.
Back in the 1960s, Andy Warhol was coming into his own, leaving behind work as a commercial illustrator to create work that would change the way we look at art. Those early years were a time of revolution, a changing of the guard through the elevation of popular culture to the realm of fine art. With Warhol at the helm, the most commonplace items could be seen as worthy of veneration on their own terms, be it Campbell’s Soup cans, Brillo boxes, or Coca Cola bottles.
By embracing art in the age of mechanical reproduction, Warhol embraced all things populists, from the tools of mass reproduction to the icons beloved by millions. As his silkscreen prints of Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, and Elvia Presley took the art world by story, Warhol set up his studio, The Factory, at 231 East 47 Street in New York, which he occupied from 1962 to 1967 at the cost of $100 per year.
This is the site of the original Silver Factory, which was done up in tin foil, silver paint, and fractured mirrors—the décor beloved by speed freaks who came from all walks of life, both high and low. The Factory was more than an art studio, it was the place to be, attracting artists, musicians, writers, performers, socialites, and personalities that sharpened the cutting edge. It was here that Warhol made art, films, and history by flouting convention and remaking the rules as he saw best fit.
In celebration of the place where it all began, Phaidon has published Factory: Andy Warhol, a luxurious oversize collection of photographs by American artist Stephen Shore, along with a fantastic series of stories of the time, written by Lynne Tillman.
Shore was just 17 years old when he first stepped foot in the joint, spending two years taking photographs and discovering a new way of life. He recalls, “It had an incredible effect on me… The photography world as very different than. What I had been exposed to was largely what I think of as ‘camera club’ mentality… I’d started to be educated in a different way….Every day I watched an artist working… I started to become aware of decision-making. That’s the most important thing. The second was, Warhol working in a serial vein, and I began to think about images, about serial projects.
Factory: Andy Warhol emerges as one such serial: the story of a people and a place that changed art and culture around the globe. The book includes photographs of everyone on the scene, along with original contact sheets and recollections of and by the subjects themselves, which add a profound layer of depth and context to the individual images. The book transforms into something more than a monograph; it becomes an album of the family of man.
Here we see Edie Sedgwick, Nico, Lou Reed, John Cale, Billy Name, Danny Fields, Paul Morrissey, Henry Geldzahler, Susan Bottomly, Jonas Mekas, and so many more—elevated to the stature of cultural icons while simultaneously humanized by virtue of the way the story unfolds.
Factory: Andy Warhol pulls back the curtain to reveal the inner workings of The Factory, bringing history down off its pedestal and letting it rub elbows with reality. It shows us what life was like at that time, in those early heady days of world renown before things had taken a darker turn. There is a sweet sense of innocence, freedom, and pure possibility that reminds us of why artists are driven to create, innovate, and redefine life of their terms.
All photos: © Stephen Shore, courtesy of Phaidon.
Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.