August 23 2014

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When Andy Met Halston: Looking at a Visionary Friendship



Photo: Andy Warhol, Halston, 1974; Andy Warhol, Fashion: Halston, 1979

With his movie-star good looks and all-American charisma, it’s no wonder that Halston would have appealed to the perennially celebrity-obsessed Andy Warhol. But what might easily have been a fleeting fixation would grow from their first meeting in the 1960s into an enduring friendship that lasted until Warhol’s death in 1987. This bond—and its far-reaching creative ripples—is the subject of the upcoming Halston and Warhol: Silver and Suede, a multimedia exhibit opening this weekend at Pittsburgh’s Andy Warhol Museum.


Photo: Halston, Evening dress with print based on Warhol’s Flowers painting 1964–72, Silk knit

Consider the 1972 Coty Awards, the duo’s first formal—and most riotous—collaboration, where the great designer tasked Warhol with producing his catwalk finale. Starring the “Halstonettes,” the extravaganza boasted a motley crew of ladies both up- and downtown, including zaftig model and Halston muse Pat Ast, who popped out of a cake (wheeled in by Halston), and Factory vedette Baby Jane Holzer, who tap-danced for the assembled crowd at Lincoln Center. Socialite Lily Auchincloss did her part cooking up bacon on the catwalk. Despite the duo’s occasionally humorless milieus of fashion and art, a shared irreverence made for a fruitful partnership. “There’s a democratic, Pop sensibility running through both of their work,” says Nicholas Chambers, a Warhol Museum curator. “It’s this kind of response to the world, but on the other hand, there’s this absolute embrace of glamour.” The latter is evidenced by better-known mergings of the two men’s visionary talents, like Halston’s Fall 1974 gown in an acid-hued print of Warhol’s famed Flowers.

The pair were bound together by a common entrepreneurial spirit, as much the product of their Depression-era childhoods as an element of otherness; both were gay men from less-than-cosmopolitan cities (Halston from Des Moines, Warhol from Pittsburgh), who hit the ground running on their arrivals in Manhattan. “They were both workaholics,” says Lesley Frowick, Halston’s niece, who had a major hand in the exhibit’s curation. “They had to work hard and make it on their own. Halston always had a pen and a pad of paper to sketch and take notes. Warhol always had Interview magazines with him that he would hand out. He was always circulating—they both did that to keep on top of the pulse of pop culture. Halston used to say, ‘Oh, yeah, Andy. He would go to the opening of a drawer.’”


Photo: Andy Warhol, Lesley Frowick, 1985

The designer featured Warhol’s works almost exclusively on the walls of his lavish East 63rd Street Paul Rudolph town house, where Frowick lived for a year while attending photography school. Encounters with her uncle’s friend Andy were commonplace. “Halston encouraged a lot of his friends to have their portraits done by Warhol, and he thought, Well, let me have Warhol do my family’s portraits, too. I went to the Factory and he did the portrait. It might sound spoiled, but that was just the way life was. Yet in hindsight, I wish I had paid more attention and taken notes and been able to take more photos myself and kind of record it all,” says Frowick. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of ephemera. Halston was an immaculate archivist and Warhol something of a pack rat, leaving behind more than 610 time capsules of Warhol memorabilia. One, whose contents are on display in the exhibit, brims over with Muppets merchandise. Sent by Jim Henson to Halston around the time of Warhol’s birthday, Halston regifted the pieces, inscribing them in marker: “To Andy, Happy Birthday, Love Halston.”

Halston and Warhol: Silver and Suede opens at The Andy Warhol Museum on May 18. For more information, visit


Photo: Andy Warhol, Time Capsule 471, 1980–83

Photos: Courtesy of the Warhol Museum

Dept. of Culture