7 Ways To Relive Andy Warhol’s New York
By Grashina Gabelmann
Warhol: the glasses-wearing, shiny silver haired artist who invented and perfected pop art and rightly predicted everyone is to have their 15 minutes of fame. His art, books, movies and legacy are rooted deeply in our culture and if you find yourself in New York City you can discover where he partied, ate and created. Step back into New York’s grimy 70s scene where Warhol ruled the night turning girls into superstars and bars into “hipster hot spots”.
1) Head over to Serendipity 3 Diner (225 East 60th Street), famous for its outrageously delicious sundaes. Warhol satisfied his sweet tooth here way before his Factory days. He used to pay his food in drawings.
I had to wait ages to get a table, but once I was sitting in a booth surrounded by colorful chandeliers, tastefully tacky ceramic, glass and crystal decorations sipping my Frozen Hot Chocolate (a secret blend of 14 types of cocoa, topped with whipped cream and chocolate shavings), I was feeling pretty all right.
2) Check out where infamous Studio 54 used to be (255 West 54th Street) — a club so exclusive that Frank Sinatra, Woody Allen and Diane Keaton were denied its Wonderland-like pleasures on the opening night.
As I approached the spot I closed my eyes and imagined Warhol strutting past me and the red velvet rope with no effort at all with “it-girl” Edie Sedwick in tow wearing belly button-reaching earrings, a fluffy fur coat and eyelashes so long and thick her eye color remained a mystery. Today, the club is now a Broadway theater, but hey, you can still say you’ve been there.
3) Head over to club and restaurant Max’s Kansas City (213 Park Avenue South) which, being the meeting place for poets, musicians and artists in the 60’s and 70’s, was the beating heart of New York’s pop culture. Warhol’s cohort Glenn O’Brien recalls: “In one corner was a big Dan Flavin fluorescent sculpture, which bathed the room in a reddish light, earning it the nickname ‘Bucket of Blood.’ In the opposite corner was the round table, a black vinyl banquette. Like the Round Table at Camelot, this table ruled the roost. This is where Andy sat.”
There is an unspectacular diner where Max’s used to be, but I was adamant to get a feel for the place that once was, so I came back armed with my iPod in ear playing The Velvet Underground live at Max’s Kansas City and the book Max’s Kansas City: Art, Glamour and Rock and Roll by Steven Kasher in hand. I drowned out my fluorescent surroundings and with the help of my book and music I felt taken back into time.
4) There is no avoiding Hotel Chelsea (222 West 23rd Street) on your Warhol pilgrimage. The hotel still operates today and is known for its famous residents including Bob Dylan, Jack Kerouac (he wrote On the Road there), Patti Smith and Jimi Hendrix to name but a few. Warhol’s film Chelsea Girls was filmed there depicting the life of Chelsea residents including Edie Sedwick and Brigid Berlin.
Walking in I could have easily mistaken the lobby for an art gallery. As the broke and not-yet-famous residents used to pay their rent in art, the walls bear home to a random and eclectic mix of paintings that are now probably worth just about as much as the hotel itself. The bar was being renovated when I was there but I am jealous to say it is open now.
5) Check out 192 Books (192 Tenth Avenue) an independent bookshop where you can poke your nose in the current issue of Interview Magazine, a magazine founded by Warhol in 1969. Steven Heller, Interview’s designer in the 70’s said: “Interview evolved into the definitive guide to the most significant stars of today and tomorrow and it was the first magazine to employ a unique Q&A format to delve candidly into the minds of celebrities, artists, politicians, filmmakers, musicians and literary figures. In many of the issues, celebrities interview other celebrities, which was a Warholian conceit that gave Interview its deliciously voyeuristic appeal.” The publication maintains its Pop-Arty vibe and its revealing interviews making it an interesting and beautiful publication to this day.
6) Don’t miss a collection of soup cans, Marilyn Monroes and car crash silkscreens at MoMA (11 West 53rd Street). Though I have seen Warhol’s art in London’s Tate Modern I felt a certain pleasure to be around these monumental works of art again. We grow up seeing his work on postcards, replicated onto canvases, mugs and T-shirts, so you might think seeing them in real life is completely unspectacular, but, at least for me, the opposite is true. You are face-to-face with the most recognizable pieces of art the 20th Century has to offer in the city where it was created. I’ll take that over a Da Vinci any day.
7) In 1968, Andy moved the Factory to the sixth floor of the Decker Building (33 Union Square West) from its original location in East 47th Street (the building does not exist anymore). It was here in the same year that Warhol survived an attempted assassination by the radical feminist Valerie Solanas. As bustling as Union Square might be this is hands down the most eerie spot on the Warhol tour to visit. After staring hard enough I swear I saw a washed-out, blood stain on the pavement. I call it being immersed, not crazy.
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Sure the New York of today is worlds apart from what Warhol experienced, but use these spots to transport you to a Zeitgeist long gone and let your imagination take a hold of you.
About the Author
Features Editor of a London culture magazine:Flamingo Magazine, daughter of a pair of globetrotters and lover of men, gin and New York, Grashina is pursuing the only sensible career for a curious and wordy explorer . . . she’s agitating the gravel and you can read about it at AgitateTheGravel.com.
[Chelsea Hotel by Stephen Balleger/Flickr]