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Whether his name makes you think of soup cans, neon celebrity portraits, or hair reminiscent of a scene from There’s Something About Mary (yep, that one), “we all know Andy Warhol,” says Simone Krug, assistant curator at the Aspen Art Museum (AAM). Or do we? That’s the question asked by AAM’s new exhibit, Andy Warhol: Lifetimes, which focuses on the biographical underpinnings of his art, including a look at the disruptive visionary through a queer lens.
From December 3 through March 27, visitors can ogle Warhol’s signature pop art pieces, like the sultry “Marilyn Diptych” and the jaunty “Elvis I and II,” as well as lesser-known works like his “Sex Parts” series. (Some scholars believe “Sex Parts,” an intimate, uncensored collection of nudes, traces Warhol’s growing acceptance of his own identity as a gay man.) Together, the exhibit will feature 200-plus pieces.
Although the show has appeared in other countries, AAM is the only museum in the United States that will host Andy Warhol: Lifetimes. Museum organizers attribute that honor to Warhol’s decadeslong love affair with their “toy town,” as Warhol described Aspen in one of his journals. Indeed, the A-list artist visited at least five times during the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s—and not just for the chance to schmooze at the 1980s-era disco Andre’s Club, which he likened to Manhattan’s Studio 54, or leave on a jet plane with John Denver’s father (see below).
In his journals, Warhol even admitted to taking a “Powder Pandas” ski lesson with “baby instructors on the baby slope,” a day that was “really fun” despite his three falls. Indeed, Warhol’s purchase of a wild parcel of land 30 miles outside of Aspen, his admiration of the town’s beauty, and, as Krug points out, the fact that he’s actually smiling in photos taken there (the guy rarely cracked a grin for the camera) all indicate the brooding artist found something special in Aspen: happiness.
The Andy Warhol Diaries, a collection of dictated memoirs published in 1989, provides an inside look at what the celebrities who frequented Aspen in the ’80s were really like.
I Do, Babe
An impromptu meetup with Sonny Bono on December 29, 1981, earned Warhol an invite to the “I Got You Babe” crooner’s third wedding, to actress and model Susie Coelho. Although Warhol arrived late, he was in time to join the churchwide cringe as the preacher flubbed his pivotal line, instead uttering: “I now pronounce you Sonny and Cherie.”
You Can’t Handle The Truth
Warhol often hung out with Jack Nicholson when their times in Aspen overlapped. Some of Warhol’s reports of the actor were complimentary, like Warhol’s entry from August 31, 1981: “Jack was just adorable.” Warhol was less kind on July 21, 1984, reporting that Nicholson “was there all weekend, we saw him everywhere. He’s fat now.”
Rocky Mountain High
In an August 30, 1981, entry, Warhol reports a flattering meeting in which John Denver “said that he knew all about me and that people always tell him he looks like me.” The folk star also promised to take him up in his “private little airplane,” though it was Denver’s father who ended up flying Warhol “up and down and up and down” through bad weather to Fort Collins.