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Warhol motion mania hits İstanbul

A hazy 204 minutes of languid youths in a drugged stupor, contemporary art icon Andy Warhol’s “Chelsea Girls,” an experimental underground film shot at the Hotel Chelsea and other New York locations in the summer of 1966, has afforded countless cult followers a cherished peek into the sad-glam New York underground world of the 1960s.
Featuring Warhol’s friends and “Superstars” Nico, International Velvet, Gerard Malanga, Ingrid Superstar and Mary Woronov amongst others, the assembled reels of unedited film in double screen format present the normal everyday interactions of the avant-garde artist’s disillusioned subjects in a sequence that is at times desperate and cold, and perfectly encapsulates the dark underbelly of the often glamorized drug infused 1960s youth culture and the ugly side of pop.

“Chelsea Girls,” the cult artist’s first major commercial success in film, is just one of a broad selection of some of Warhol’s most acclaimed films, videos and polaroids currently on display at the “Warhol in Motion” exhibition across the three sites of İstanbul’s Galerist art gallery in Galatasaray and Tepebaşı in Taksim and Akaretler in Beşiktaş, which opened in synchrony on Wednesday evening.

The product of lengthy talks between Galerist and the New York-based Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and The Andy Warhol Museum in Pennsylvania, this is the first time the pop art icon’s heavily copyrighted film-works have made their way to a Turkish audience.

Spanning a period of six years from 1962 to 1968, during which Warhol, already established as a successful commercial artist, took to producing a wide range of films in his New York City studio, The Factory, the works on display include “My Hustler,” hailed as one of the classics of gay cinema, “The Velvet Underground and Nico,” featuring German singer, model and actress, Nico, in rehearsal with the Velvet Underground, “Horse,” a homoerotic spoof of a traditional Hollywood Western and “Empire,” a fuzzy, slow-motion 8-hour film portrait of the Empire State building recorded out of a nearby window.

The 33-minute video recording “Outer and Inner Space,” at Galerist’s Galatasaray site presents one of Warhol’s best known superstars, the doe-eyed Edie Sedgwick obediently reciting a monologue, allowing the audience a glimpse into Warhol’s fascination with the tragic drug-addict socialite-come-actress who died in 1971 at the age of 28. Warhol famously noted (referring to Sedgwick) in his book “The Philosophy of Andy Warhol,” that “one person in the ‘60s fascinated me more than anybody else I had ever known. And the fascination I experienced was probably very close to a certain kind of love.”

A fascination that has seeped through the decades to be inherited by many ardent Warhol followers, Sedgwick also features in a number of other pieces at the Galerist exhibitions, including “Lupe” at the Tepebaşı site, a film based on the death of screen star Lupe Velez with Sedgwick cast as the protagonist.

While the Taksim Galerist sites present only films and video recordings, the Akaretler site in Beşiktaş also features a comprehensive collection of some of Warhol’s most famous Polaroid snaps. Warhol loyally stuck to his clunky Polaroid Big Shot camera for almost 10 years to shoot instant photos of his subjects, resulting in the timeless portraits instantly recognizable worldwide as a product of the avant-garde icon.

With the exhibitions on display until July 9, Warhol fans have plenty of time to see the great man’s work; however, while it is unlikely that admirers will be disappointed with the work on display, a single exhibiting space would arguably have lent itself better to the work, as the distance between the Taksim sites and Akaretler is an unnecessary complication for art perusers.

Similarly, while cult fans will adore the insight into this distinguished yet bohemian 1960s social circle and cherish the opportunity to immerse themselves in the indulgently long sequences of odd activity, the films will mean little to those unfamiliar with Warhol’s works or the stories and relevance of the individuals involved. Indeed, even to a Warhol admirer there is only so long one can be genuinely engaged in Nico silently trimming her hair or Sedgwick mouthing wordlessly at the camera.

However, for the duration of the month there is little doubt that Warhol fans will travel from all corners of İstanbul and beyond to visit the works of a man who even 23 years after his death is still one of the most influential and celebrated presences in contemporary art culture.

As Warhol himself once said, “If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface: of my paintings and films and me, and there I am.”