Andy Warhol, the Model, a Photo Exhibit

Andy Warhol loved to be photographed but was an uneasy model.

“He was 100 percent awkward,” said photographer Christopher Makos, a close friend and confidant of Warhol’s, and from 1976 to 1986, part of The Factory, Warhol’s studio in New York City.

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“Andy was all about his hands,” Makos told WWD. “He didn’t know what to do with them. What makes it so fascinating is that here you have one of the major artists of the times not knowing what to do in front of the camera.”

On Monday, Ralph Pucci International, located at 44 West 18th Street in Manhattan, launches an exhibition of photographs of Warhol taken by Makos, drawn from Makos’ book published last year entitled “Warhol Modeling Portfolio Makos.” The book exposes the lesser-known modeling phase of Warhol’s life.

Andy Warhol shot by Christopher Makos

Warhol was Makos’ muse. He learned a lot from Warhol about the creative process and “the art of business,” he said. Meanwhile, Makos taught Warhol how to use a camera. Among their many projects together, Makos art-directed Warhol’s first book of photographs, “Exposures,” and collaborated on the book “Altered Images” containing 349 poses of Warhol in drag wearing wigs. Makos also played an important role in the Netflix series “The Andy Warhol Diaries.”

Pucci’s exhibition includes eight large Makos photos of Warhol, each 36 inches by 48 inches, and one that’s 44 inches by 66 inches. Some have the old wax pencil markings from the original contact sheets to highlight the best of the shoot. The exhibit includes close-up portraits of Warhol taken by Makos over the years, and an image of Warhol posing as Elvis Presley, called “The Three Andys.”

Warhol was motivated to model by his agent, who thought a portfolio would help expand the Warhol brand and the artist’s role as an endorser of products. As Makos writes in his book: “Andy’s actual modeling and endorsement career did show promise, attested to by his work for the likes of Braniff Airlines, Drexel Burnham, Sony Beta Tapes, Pioneer High Fidelity Receivers, L.A. Eyeworks, U.S. News & World Report, Vidal Sassoon, Air France, and I can’t believe this myself, Sub-Zero refrigerators.”

“Andy and I did six photo shoots to get his modeling book together. They were directly related to the fashion of the time,” explained Makos, with Warhol styled in Halston, Stephen Sprouse and looks from other designers. In one photo he’s wearing a leather necklace with a big crystal. “At the time Andy was very much into crystals which were happening then,” Makos said. “Andy and I did a lot of projects together.”

Regarding the modeling, Warhol is quoted as saying, “It must be hard to be a model because you’d want to be like the photograph of you, and you can’t ever look that way.”

Makos said the Pucci exhibit represents “a behind-the-scenes portrait of America’s most famous Pop artist being absolutely awkward as a model — but on target. He was eccentric, interesting, popular, peculiar — all the things that make an artist an artist. The photographs absolutely capture Andy. Andy loved being photographed. He was an outsider, a kid from Pittsburgh who wanted to be accepted by everybody. He was always practicing how to be in front of the camera, always very aware of himself.”

Between Makos and Ralph Pucci, there’s also been a long association. “I’ve been working with Chris for 35 years. We put together 10 or 12 shows together,” said Pucci. “Post-COVID[-19], life is getting back to normal. So I felt it was the right time to do a tribute to Andy Warhol. During the pandemic we renovated our mannequin factory into also serving as a furniture gallery and we decided to call it The Factory as a fun tribute to Andy Warhol. He was such a major player in the world of pop culture. But Chris himself is becoming an icon, too. He’s been intimately involved in so much of New York.”

Pucci said the Warhol photos provide “more of an intimate, behind-the-scenes view. Chris and Andy were very close friends. They traveled all over the world, and Chris photographed Andy when he was very relaxed or when they came up with a crazy idea. They just executed. It was very spontaneous.”

Pucci said the Warhol photos will be up through December. Along with the Warhol show, the Pucci showroom, which specializes in luxury furniture, decoratives, lighting and photography, on Monday launches a solo exhibition of “Plasterglass,” works by the influential Parisian designer Elizabeth Garouste; a new “Etna” furniture collection by Nina Seirafi, created for Ralph Pucci, and a debut exhibition by Alexandre Logé.

Pucci said Garouste is known for her “avant-garde designs and ability to preserve the traditions of decorative art while breaking down conventional aesthetics in her artworks, sculptures and interiors.” Her career began in designing theater sets before embarking on a partnership in furniture with Mattia Bonetti.

Seirafi’s furniture collection, Pucci mentioned, is “grounded by the sophisticated tactility of the monochrome designs crafted in raw materials such as lava, crystal stone, bronze, chipwood and oakwood.”

Pucci also said the pieces Logé has created “reflect our shared interest in using diverse materials to create furniture and lighting that is timeless and sculptural.”

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