60 Seconds of Fame

Is Andy Warhol most famous for his fixation on fame? His idea that everyone would be world famous for 15 minutes in the future was incredibly prophetic, and his pop art paintings made celebrities into icons, endlessly duplicating their faces until they’re unforgettable. His screen tests gave his “superstars,” actors, authors, models, people off the street, and anyone else who entered his Silver Factory an immortal, moving portrait. Back in August, I saw some of the screen tests in a small theatre at the Guggenheim, set to music by Dean & Britta. It was fascinating to just stare at someone’s face for so long, to watch someone who knew they were being watched (at least by Warhol during the filming), to let their face become art.

Earlier this month, I went to the 60 Seconds of Fame PopRally at MoMA, a late night party in the museum. This was in conjunction with the “Andy Warhol: Motion Pictures” exhibit that just opened up focusing on his film work. In the MoMA atrium, there were three projectors set up to show films that party goers had just made, minute long videos of just their faces (their 60 seconds of fame). It was a really interesting idea, suddenly turning the faces in the crowd around you into momentary celebrities, faces as big as gods. You can see all the screen tests on the MoMA’s flickr. You won’t find me, sorry. I wasn’t feeling particularly appearance-confident, and was a little weirded out by the idea of having a video of myself made public property of the museum.

The actual “Andy Warhol: Motion Pictures” exhibit was open during the PopRally, and I thought the gallery where all the screen tests were framed around you was pretty cool. Still, it lacked the intimacy of watching just one screen test and being stuck with that person, even uncomfortably so. You can see lovely Edie Sedgwick in the above photo; my favorite was of Allen Ginsberg. In the back room there was a theatre where Warhol’s movie of people kissing in slow motion played in front of rows of seats, intimacy without the limits of time.

I’m not sure why there are suddenly so many Andy Warhol exhibits, or maybe I’m just noticing a pattern that isn’t there, as humans sometimes do. During the summer, I saw an exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum of his later work, and I saw his electric chairs in Haunted at the Guggenheim. I guess no one gets to be more famous than the man who did so much to create our modern idea of it.

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