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Andy Warhol's Factory Through The Lens of Nat Finkelstein

  • Nat Finkelstein - Andy Warhol with Group at Bus Stop
April 23, 2019
Balasz Takac is alias of Vladimir Bjelicic who is actively engaged in art criticism, curatorial and artistic practice.

There is an array of texts written about various aspects of Andy Warhol’s practice in the context of the 1960s subculture and wider social and political circumstances of the American era during that time. However, the artifacts which truly preserved the capture moments of the social circle surrounding Warhol are indeed photographs. The iconic Pop artist was a devoted photographer himself, but there were also other authors present and one of the most celebrated is Nat Finkelstein.

Namely, this interesting character appeared suddenly and during the course of three years he shot the happenings taking place at the Silver Factory which was at the time a central hot spot for all sorts of marginal, socialites, as well as celebrities. These incredible images are currently on display at the Proud Galleries within an exhibition titled Out of Warhol’s Orbit: Photographs by Nat Finkelstein.

About Nat Finkelstein

During the 1950s, Nat Finkelstein worked as an intern for Alexey Brodovitch, who was a legendary Harper’s Bazaar Art Director and was engaged as a photographer for LIFE magazine and Sports Illustrated. In 1962, Finkelstein was commissioned by Pageant magazine to do a coverage on the emerging Pop Art movement. Under the title What happens at a Happening? the article covered the happening by Claes Oldenburg in Greenwich Village; while partying at the Factory two years later Finkelstein met Andy Warhol, who saw his Pageant photographs of Oldenburg’s happening. The photographer offered his services to the artist; he practically became part of the crew at the Factory, and so his featured figures such as Edie Sedgwick, Salvador Dalí, the Velvet Underground, Bob Dylan, and others.

The rebellious spirit of that environment apparently inspired Finkelstein – he became politically active and helped organize anti-war demonstration and civil rights rallies. In 1969, the photographer was prosecuted for an old drug case, and so he fled the United States. It wasn’t until 1982 that Finkelstein returned to the country when he became involved with the punk scene. He was apparently enchanted with the subculture, so during the 1990s, he shot the rave scene in London and Amsterdam, as well as the iconic New York club kids.

The Installment

Finkelstein’s photographs made in The Factory differ in approach meaning that he shifted from photojournalism to fine art. However, all of them reflect his outstanding ability to capture the personality of the portrayed subject and not just that – the images represent the spirit of the cultural revolution which reformed American society. Some of the highlights include unique signed prints of Andy Warhol and ‘the Factory Girl’ Edie Sedgwick and screen tests of a young Bob Dylan.

Nat Finkelstein at the Proud Galleries

After Nat Finkelstein passed away in 2009, his wife Elizabeth founded the Estate of Nat Finkelstein to continue representing his work and maintaining his creative legacy. Finkelstein’s iconic images were featured on licensed products by various companies in collaboration with the Andy Warhol Foundation, and his photos were displayed in numerous institutions across the country and abroad.

In and Out of Warhol’s Orbit: Photographs by Nat Finkelstein will be on display at the Proud Galleries in London until 9 June 2019.

The following list includes six images which encapsulate the photographers perception of The Factory and the 1960s New York scene.

Featured image: Nat Finkelstein – Andy Warhol with Group at Bus Stop, New York, 1966 © Nat Finkelstein Estate. All images used are courtesy of Proud Galleries © Nat Finkelstein Estate. Images courtesy Proud Galleries.

  • Nat Finkelstein - Edie Sedgwick with Chain

Edie Sedgwick with Chain, The Factory, New York, 1966

The first photograph on our list is a close up portrait of Edie Sedgwick, who was one of the most inspiring personalities for Andy Warhol. She was known for her quirky looks and was featured in several of his films including Kitchen, Poor Little Rich Girl, and Vinyl. Sedgwick was also on a cover of LIFE magazine followed by the title Girl with the Black Tights. Shortly after she split with Warhol, this peculiar figure decided to pursue her solo acting career in a film Ciao! Manhattan, however, in 1971 she overdosed on barbiturates aged 28.

Feature image: Nat Finkelstein – Edie Sedgwick with Chain, The Factory, New York, 1966. © Nat Finkelstein Estate

  • Nat Finkelstein - Andy with Cow Paper

Andy with Cow Paper, The Factory, New York, 1966

This photograph shows artist Andy Warhol posing in front of a piece from his series of cow wallpapers, produced at the Factory between the 1960s and 80s. Allegedly, Warhol was inspired by the sentence of an art dealer Ivan Karp who asked him once – “Why don’t you paint some cows? They’re so wonderfully pastoral and such a durable image in the history of the arts”. After Karp saw huge cow heads colored in stark pink on violent yellow background, he said: “They’re super-pastoral! They’re ridiculous! They’re blazingly bright and vulgar.”

Featured image: Nat Finkelstein – Andy with Cow Paper, The Factory, New York, 1966. © Nat Finkelstein Estate

  • Nat Finkelstein - Bob Dylan Screentest 2

Bob Dylan Screentest 2, The Factory, New York, 1965

During the early 1960s, Bob Dylan was already a celebrated singer/songwriter, and Andy Warhol was a star in his own right as well, so the encounter of the two figures was inevitable. Dylan was brought to The Factory in 1965 by Barbara Rubin, a filmmaker and a mutual friend of the two men. On that occasion, Dylan gladly posed for one of Warhol’s screen tests, two-minute silent movie portraits starring Factory visitors.

Featured image: Nat Finkelstein – Bob Dylan Screentest 2, The Factory, New York, 1965. © Nat Finkelstein Estate

  • Nat Finkelstein - Velvet Underground at Paraphernalia Opening

Velvet Underground at Paraphernalia Opening, New York, 1966

In 1964, a group of musicians gathered to form a band, and among them were y singer/guitarist Lou Reed, guitarist Sterling Morrison, multi-instrumentalist John Cale, drummer Angus MacLise (replaced by Moe Tucker in 1965), and a singer Nico, who formed The Velvet Underground. In 1965, they were approached by Warhol who acted as member in charge for visuals, and as a manager and sort of producer. The band rehearsed in Warhol’s Factory with Nat Finkelstein taking shoots.

Featured image: Nat Finkelstein – Velvet Underground at Paraphernalia Opening, New York, 1966 © Nat Finkelstein Estate

  • Nat Finkelstein - Andy Warhol with Group at Bus Stop

Andy Warhol with Group at Bus Stop, New York, 1966

The last Nat Finkelstein’s photograph on our list features Andy Warhol and his peers – Donyale Luna (among the first African-American high fashion models); Gerard Malanga; Ingrid Superstar (Factory regular); Severn Darden (actor and comedian); Danny Williams (filmmaker, lighting designer and Warhol’s then-boyfriend); David Dalton (acclaimed author of numerous artist and musician biographies including Marianne Faithfull, Bob Dylan, James Dean); and Sarah Dalton (Nat Finkelstein’s lifelong friend and sister of David Dalton) posing at a New York bus stop with.

Featured image: Nat Finkelstein – Andy Warhol with Group at Bus Stop, New York, 1966 © Nat Finkelstein Estate