Bloomingdale’s department store, the kind he would use to hold copies of Interview magazine, the oversize splashy publication he started in 1969. Around his neck is the strap for the Polaroid camera, one of the artist's favorite and instantly gratifying media for capturing an image, a necessary component of fame.
It seems fitting, of course, that in the presence of a famous man sporting a film camera, people seem instinctively driven to snap a picture. At the unveiling, members of media organizations brought out their high-end digital cameras, devices mostly confined to the inventor's laboratory during the Warhol 70s. One can presume that people take pictures of whatever sort for the many reasons that Susan Sontag noted in her book On Photography, among them, just to prove that they were there. "Photographs will offer indisputable evidence that the trip was made, that the program was carried out, that fun was had," Sontag writes. In this case, that the Warhol statue was seen. Viewers may also feel some connection to the artist, and they take pictures to reaffirm their relationship. What's funny is that this chrome statue, reflecting light back out onto the environs of Broadway and E. 17th Street, is particularly hard to photograph. Fittingly so, because as Warhol scholars have pointed out, he used his camera not only to turn reality into an image but to keep real people at arm's length.
Get ready for a wave of opinions as to whether or not Pruitt's Warhol looks like Andy Warhol. Given the proclivity of many New Yorkers to play games of status, voicing an opinion about the statue's ressemblance to Warhol implies that the speaking subject personally knew Warhol and thus would be in a position to comment. I predict this will be a popular pastime, though making judgments as to the monument's likeness to the artist seems impossibly nineteenth century. Anyway, the statue matches the popular representation of Andy, and that's what matters here. The presentation comes off playfully, of course, because monuments are not normally titled after the first nicknames of the subject. ("The Abe Memorial" in D.C. just doesn't sound right.)
As old-fashioned as judging the statue on its verisimilitude, interpreting the meaning of the statue based solely on the intentions of its creator, Rob Pruitt, would be rather retro, too. Nevertheless, the motivation is a sincere and compelling one. The artist said at the unveiling that Andy Warhol inspired him as a burgeoning artist to move to New York. The monument then stands as a symbol of Warhol's dynamic place in the hearts and minds of aspiring artists. Pruitt's Warhol is pedestrian, in a literal sense and in the best way. The silvery chrome color works well in communicating a calm and accessible energy, a self-reflexivity that also becomes a mirror.
On one hand, he's just a guy, this Andy, on a New York street corner, near a place where he made work for the masses and in collaboration with others, hustling his magazine and making pictures. On the other hand, he looks like he moved to New York City, not from Pittsburgh as it has been assumed, but from his original star home beyond the Milky Way. Many of us make art and work hard on our careers, but Andy did it better than anyone. Inspiring many to pursue similar dreams, he personally obtained a level of artistic intelligence and fame that's hard to reach. It's worth the effort always.
Andy is worthy of this pedestal. Take his picture.
The Andy Monument by Rob Pruitt is presented by the Public Art Fund. Images by Walking Off the Big Apple.
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