Fashion Reverie Feature: Andy Warhol’s Letters and Cadillac

Image courtesy of knockturnal.com

Image courtesy of knockturnal.com

America has perhaps lived through one of the biggest rejections in its current political history. Strangely enough this rejection was not based on the majority of the US electorate, but the result of a critical mass that rejected governmental power, as we know it, and opted for the unknown.

Paradoxically, rejection often comes from a fear of the unknown. However, for this recent rejection, the unknown had a wide appeal. That said; rejection is a part of life, and for most artists, rejection is a constant bedfellow. As popular as Andy Warhol was in life and posthumously, early in his career as with most artists of his ilk, he was not immune to rejection. This early rejection and other letters from his archive, housed in the Andy Warhol Museum, is the subject of a traveling exhibit, the result of a collaboration of the Cadillac House and the Andy Warhol Museum.

The “Letters to Andy Warhol” exhibition features rarely seen material from the museum’s archive, including artwork and Warhol’s personal correspondence, plus artistic contributions from several modern-day cultural creators including Brian Atwood, Sienna Miller, Sean Lennon, JJ Martin, Zac Posen, Chiara Clemente, Aimee Mullins, David LaChapelle, Francesco Clemente, Nick Rhodes and more. The “Letters to Andy Warhol” exhibit features five interpretations: Mick Jagger’s letter to Warhol asking the legendary artist to create the artwork for the Rolling Stones’ 1969 “Sticky Fingers” album is brought to life by Sean Lennon via a virtual reality experience; Warhol’s letters to Truman Capote discussing fame, determination and ambition are explored in a short film directed Chiara Clemente featuring Sienna Miller, Zac Posen, David LaChapelle; a letter from the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) rejecting Warhol’s “Shoe” artwork into the museum’s collection is interpreted via an illustrated children’s book by shoe designer Brian Atwood;  and a letter from famed designer Yves Saint Laurent expressing his gratitude for Warhol’s friendship is explored in a portraiture series by writer and author Derek Blasberg.

Images courtesy of Kovert Creative

Images courtesy of Kovert Creative

“This collaboration came [with Andy Warhol Museum and Cadillac House] together to celebrate two American icons. Andy celebrated Cadillac as a brand along with Campbell Soup and Coco-Cola,” detailed Patrick Moore, interim director of the Andy Warhol Museum. “That is where the idea behind this exhibition started, but as we got to immerse more into Andy’s world we developed a deeper relationship. We were really inspired by these letters from his archives, and we realized that some of things that we found in his letters reflect the Cadillac story of today. The Cadillac story of today is about reinvention, perseverance, innovation, and challenge. These are some of the themes we find in these letters that we are bringing to life in a really immersive way.” “This exhibit also demonstrates Cadillac’s commitment to redefining the role of a brand in culture. A brand should be a producer of culture and not just an advertiser who takes advantage of culture. We talk about Cadillac redefining what a patron of the arts can be, and really supporting the arts in an immersive, experiential and added-value way.”

Perhaps, the most innovative feature of the exhibit was the 100 ft., life-size,  illustrated children’s book, “Bobby’s Brilliant Heels” illustrated by shoe designer Brian Atwood with text by JJ Martin. “Bobby’s Brilliant Heels” is about a young boy who likes to dress in and design women’s clothes and how his family and friends support him. The book is loosely based on Brian Atwood’s childhood with shoes produced by Atwood as a part of the exhibit display.

Image courtesy of Kovert Creative

Image courtesy of Kovert Creative

“I was approached by the idea of this collaboration by a friend. The rejection letter that Warhol received from MOMA inspired me to write a children’s book based on the rejection letter. I approached my writer friend JJ Martin because I had never written or produced a children’s book,” explained Brian Atwood. “The book was based around the Warhol shoe photo that was rejected by MOMA. We didn’t want the high heel in the book to be a heel for a little girl, we wanted it to be more contemporary and celebrate creativity” … “This book is also about rejection and redemption. Who would’ve thought that Andy Warhol experienced rejection in his career, but he did. Everyone does, and everyone has to figure out their of moving past rejection, and this book is about that.”

“Letters to Andy Warhol” will be on display at New York City’s Cadillac House through December 26 and then will embark on a national tour. For more information, go to cadillac.com/experience/cadillac-house.html.

—William S. Gooch

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