Clad in matching black turtlenecks, Halston and Andy Warhol were the ringleaders of the 1960s and 1970's social scene. In many ways they were extremely different: Halston was charismatic, outgoing and flamboyant, while Warhol was softly-spoken, reserved and observant. However both shared an artistic vision that made a permanent imprint on art and fashion and a wild thirst for living that drove some of the most memorable parties of the era. Their relationship and impact on pop culture is demonstrated in Halston and Warhol: Silver and Suede, the latest exhibition at the Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, launched in celebration of the museum’s 20th anniversary. “I think that Halston and Warhol both had a sophisticated appreciation for the power of brand identity,” explains Nicholas Chambers, The Milton Fine Curator of Art. “Each had formative experiences working in department stores and, as they subsequently embarked upon their respective careers, adopted a persona that would become inseparable from their productions as designer and artist.”
Halston and Warhol wove in and out of each other’s work throughout the 1960s and 1970s. A pillbox hat that Halston made for Jackie Kennedy, which marked the beginning of his career, sits alongside a screen print by Warhol of Jackie wearing said hat; a 1972 dress by Halston based on Warhol’s 1964 Flower paintings; a photo of Lisa Minnelli by Warhol in a glittering red Halston gown. Their first collaboration came about in 1972, when Warhol was invited to create Halston’s runway presentation for the Coty Awards. Billed as ”An Onstage Happening by Andy Warhol”, the performance brought ”Halstonettes” and Warhol ”Superstars” together in a bizarre spectacle that Warhol also captured on video.
"When asked on his tips for getting into Studio 54, Warhol replied, 'Always go with Halston or in Halston'"
Halston and Warhol were collectors of one another’s work. Halston would display Warhol’s pop-art prints in his 63rd Street Manhattan townhouse, while Warhol would use Halston as a subject in many of his stark polaroids and screen prints. They would holiday together at Warhol’s Montauk retreat and co-host legendary parties at Studio 54. When asked for his tips for getting into Studio 54, Warhol replied, “Always go with Halston or in Halston.”
These memories are captured throughout the exhibition, in club entry tickets, invitations and letters; a receipt for a Strip-a-Gram sent to Warhol from Halston in 1982 or a set of airline tickets for a joint trip to Washington. It is clear that their bond was more than simply an artistic appreciation, it was a real friendship. “They opened up a dialogue between the fields of art, design and fashion that was pioneering for the time and has exerted a considerable influence on contemporary culture industries,” continues Chambers. “Over the course of the 1970s and 1980s they developed a close friendship as well as a professional relationship that resulted in collaborations, commissions and projects inspired by each other’s work.”
Halston and Warhol: Silver and Suede is at the Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, until August 24.
Text by Mhairi Graham