Andy Warhol Polaroids: Bring It to the Runway

December 10, 2020 – December 31, 2021
Palm Desert, CA


Andy Warhol has become inextricably tied to American art, let alone Pop Art. His precise ability to capture the values of American society filtered through a glamorous lens have captured our collective imagination while also infiltrating our visual landscape. Despite his association with lavish parties, Warhol was always observing. As Diana Vreeland, a friend of Warhol and herself represented in this exhibition, said, “The eye has to travel.”

It is no surprise, then, that Warhol carried a Polaroid camera from the 1950s until his death in 1987. In ways that echoed our current habits with smart phones, Warhol’s polaroids are instant and numerous. It is no coincidence that early filters on social media apps like Instagram mimicked the polaroid. In his images of everyday objects, Warhol’s influence can be seen in photographers today including Wolfgang Tillmans and Juergen Teller. The photographs, taken on the spur of the moment and developed within minutes, also speak to the transience and ephemera of culture.

Warhol would use these polaroids for his paintings and referred to the photographs as his “pencil and paper”. It is important to note that the polaroids stayed with Warhol, despite pleas from his subjects. They are a record of his life and his practice while reflecting the idea of inclusion and exclusion, glamour and desolation.

Capturing the bright and the beautiful, the famous and infamous, Warhol’s polaroids are an unfiltered look into society while being a record of the life of one of America’s most important artist. They speak to the power of image and illusion.

The exhibition spans four sections – “Bring It to the Runway”, “All That Glitters”, “Me, Myself, & I”, and “Ars Longa” – focusing on different subjects within the polaroids as a whole. Visit our other virtual show, “Andy Warhol: Wayward Allure” to get further insight into the enigmatic genius.

“Bring It to the Runway”

One of the areas that Warhol has seen the most influence has the been the world of fashion. This section brings together the glamorous and outrageous personas that inhabit that often rarefied universe.

At the juncture of impractical art and practical use wrapped up in its ability to project both an image and illusion and the capricious nature of the industry, the fashion world perfectly encapsulates many of Warhol’s obsessions and the themes that his overall body of work illuminates.

Featured in this section are fashion models from Cheryl Tiegs to Jerry Hall as well as the most important designers including Jean-Paul Gaultier, Roy Halston, Yves Saint-Laurent, and more. Also within the realms of couture are Vogue Editor Diana Vreeland, actor and musician Diana Ross, and the incomparable Grace Jones.

Special mention goes to Wilhelmina Ross who provided the basis for the majority of Warhol’s esteemed “Ladies & Gentlemen” series. Ross was part of the drag troupe Hot Peaches. Warhol was no stranger to drag (visit “Andy Warhol Polaroids: Me, Myself, & I” to learn more). Perhaps it was the idea of illusion and image-crafting that attracted Warhol to the art form and to these performers. Fashion and drag have influenced each other for decades and give inspiration to this section’s subtitle.