Father Figure

Rhonda Lieberman on The Andy Monument

Artist Rob Pruitt. (Photo: Irina Rozovsky)

SO OFTEN WHEN I STROLL around Union Square, I marvel that I am walking in the steps of the Factory, that it was from here that Andy Warhol changed artmaking forever with the radical notion that to reproduce is to produce and vice versa. This was the fertile void where Andy and his surrogates manufactured “superstars”: where they taped, snapped, hustled, social-climbed, starfucked, painted, “brought home the bacon,” and ordered from Brownie’s (the health food store frequently mentioned in the Andy archive). How fitting to have a monument right here. And how hilarious and slyly apt to commemorate the Pop portraitist by riffing on the old-timey genre of the figurative statue.

On Wednesday night, Rob Pruitt’s The Andy Monument was unveiled, sponsored by the Public Art Fund. It will be up for six months on the northwest corner of Union Square.

When was the last time you even saw an artwork unveiled? It was a quaint way to launch this tribute to the most un-artsy of artists. Anticipation built as guests gathered before the life-size statue (modeled on the body of Cincinnati collector Andy Stillpass) draped in a Christoesque tarp, right in front of Petco, which is on the ground floor of one of the Factory locations. People from Interview, from Gavin Brown and from the Public Art Fund, artist friends, the press, and whoever.

“The superstars just came out; they weren’t even invited,” said Nicholas Baume of the Public Art Fund. Ultra Violet, Taylor Mead, and Robert Heide, Warhol’s playwright, in a polo shirt with a large Warhol banana. Chloë Sevigny, he said, “was detained in Mexico.”

Left: Collector Andy Stillpass and artist Elizabeth Peyton. (Photo: Patrick McMullan) Right: Public Art Fund director Nicholas Baume. (Photo: Irina Rozovsky)

A bunch of arms extended from the crowd holding cameras, “like a rock concert,” enthused a friend.

“I hope you like it for more than fifteen minutes.” Pruitt’s speech at the undraping was brief.

Unveiled, Andy’s chrome surface glittered like a disco ball from the barrage of flashes. The effigy, like a saint, was recognizable by his accessories: fright wig, “welfare glasses,” Polaroid camera around his neck, and the shopping bag filled with Interviews and the daily purchases he accumulated as he shopped his way to work. (He was a hoarder.) The famous Pop-ster stared back at us vacantly, his reflective hide glimmering and animated by the snaps as if vivified by being photographed, but not quite. He was as undead and as fabulous and as inscrutable as ever.

“Does this make you feel a little nostalgic?” I asked Interview veteran Glenn O’Brien.

“A little.”

I noticed several others scribbling away on notepads: Calvin Tomkins; Jerry Saltz; Sarah Douglas, who asked: “What do you think Warhol would have thought of it?”

“That’s the question!” not-answered Saltz.

We watched the crowd snap away at Andy, and complained how when we’re covering something we always feel we have “nothing.”

It was very Warholian as we lingered at the pseudo-event, gawking, hobnobbing, and/or trying to get a piece out of it.

Left: Dealer Gavin Brown. Right: Ultra Violet, Taylor Mead, Robert Heide, and Rob Pruitt (counterclockwise from top left). (Photos: Irina Rozovksy)

“It’s an American monument,” someone offered.

“Give me your rich, your glamorous, your superficial,” riffed Glenn O’Brien, Emma Lazarus–style.

“This piece isn’t about me. It’s an homage to Andy,” Pruitt was careful to say.

And an effective homage it is. By the end of the unveiling there were already offerings of Campbell’s soup cans and one Brillo box at the base of the piece: a spontaneous shrine. A friend had passed by earlier that day, when Andy was exposed: “Andy would be happy to know that most people's impulse seemed to be to take a picture of themselves with it! Almost everyone smiled when they looked at it.”

There was a packed cocktail party at an architecture firm in the former Factory building. “It feels like an office Christmas party,” said Christopher Bollen of Interview. To extract yet another fifteen minutes, Ultra Violet was working the room: a teeny lady with gray curls, big red eyeglasses, and a handy pin that said ULTRA in rhinestones. Her friend, who’d worked at Cantor-Fitzgerald, gave me an impromptu pitch for her 9/11 memorial project. He pulled out a purple Vosges chocolate box containing a small model of her piece, in ultra violet (of course) with the roman numerals for IX/XI arranged on two levels à la Robert Indiana’s famous LOVE. I listened, taking in that one of Warhol’s superstars was trying to capitalize on the Pop-ularity of IX/XI. Oy. “We’re getting it copyrighted,” he assured me.

“Life is weird,” an artist nearby mused. “It’s sad. After all this”—she indicated the crowd packed with art-world go-getters— “you still get old.”

Then there was a glamorous dinner at Olives at the W hotel. It was really “up there.” Supermodel Stephanie Seymour was seated just behind me, between Peter Brant and Gavin Brown. But I was too busy gabbing to observe her.

Left: Artist Aaron Young and photographer Patrick McMullan. (Photo: Clint Spaulding/Patrick McMullan) Right: Ultra Violet. (Photo: Irina Rozovsky)

My favorite moment by far was Anthony Haden-Guest snoozing, head tilted back, with his mouth wide open—dentist-wide—at a half-empty table, while his remaining tablemates chatted around him. The nightlife chronicler evoked a Goya figure, a gaping orifice in the swank chiaroscuro of Olives. Socialite shutterbug Patrick McMullan wasn’t too discreet to swoop in there and snap away. Refreshed by his nap, the bon vivant roused himself and table-hopped next to me, supported by the arm of his New York Observer editor (who announced, “I’m in it for the sorbet now.”). He mumbled so I really had to lean in and he was soon holding my arm, too.

“Do you know my little drawings?” He brightened and proceeded to sketch me on a napkin: a circle for a head with glasses and two lines of hair, captioned “ ‘It’s me!’ AH-G.”

(“That looks nothing like you!” a friend shrieked.)

I was impressed by the sketch, given the artist’s condition, and when I got home I was delighted to find another piece of AH-G artwork in my purse: a self-portrait he’d scribbled on the back of a card and signed. Andy would have appreciated the artifact.