NEW YORK — For Christophe von Hohenberg, the Vanity Fair assignment was simple enough: photograph women wearing miniskirts at Andy Warhol’s memorial service.
But when mourners and the requisite opportunists at the 1987 service arrived wearing more suitable attire for St. Patrick’s Cathedral than minis, the lensman abandoned his original plan and instead came up with a stack of photos of the artists, celebrities and hangers-on who orbited Warhol’s world.
Now, nearly 20 years after the towheaded artist’s death, von Hohenberg is using many of those images in a new book, “Andy Warhol: The Day the Factory Died,” to be published by Empire this fall. During an exhibition of his more recent work May 30 at his West 10th Street apartment here, the photographer showed images from the book, including Sophia Loren in a fur coat standing astride on the sidewalk with arms akimbo, and Claus von Bulow captured smiling amidst the scrum of people on the church steps.
Halston, David Hockney, Roy Lichtenstein, Keith Haring, Robert Mapplethorpe, Paloma Picasso, Diane von Furstenberg, Bianca Jagger, Ahmet Ertegun, Stephen Sprouse and Liza Minnelli were among the many who poured through the cathedral’s massive doors to pay their respects. With its funereal undertone and bible size, the $45 tome is a moment in time, not all that different from the time capsules Warhol liked to make, which are now on display at Pittsburgh’s Andy Warhol Museum, said Empire chief executive officer Anthony Petrillose.
Recalling the Vanity Fair assignment, von Hohenberg explained that Sprouse had recently reintroduced the miniskirt. “Was I wearing a short skirt?” asked Rados Protic, one of the guests last week. “No, no one was. I think you were wearing a skirt to here,” von Hohenberg said, sawing his knee with one hand.
After the photos had been filed away for a year or two, von Hohenberg decided to dial up old friends such as Julian Schnabel, Francesco Clemente and von Bulow to ask them to jot down favorite Warholian memories for a tribute book. Von Bulow, who was convicted and then acquitted of trying to murder his wife, Sunny, with an insulin overdose, obliged and hinted at his much-publicized trials and tribulations. He mentioned how his daughter Cosima’s 18th birthday was memorable, thanks to Warhol. “Her mother was tragically in an irreversible coma, but she was remembered, of course, by her three children as someone very loving and giving, not least on important birthdays. Generous gifts were made to Cosima’s sister and brother at such comings of age. There was a matter of record in the files of fiduciaries, but they decided to make some provisions for Cosima,” von Bulow wrote.
Warhol caught wind of the situation and gave Cosima one of his valuable paintings. Years later, several art experts advised her to sell it, but “she has not done so, nor shall she ever,” von Bulow wrote. “One must always remember any kindness and forget any unkindness.”
Sprouse’s neon-colored camouflage lettering is featured in the book and Charles Scheips provided the essay. Another contributor to the book, Anthony Hayden-Guest, who wrote the introduction, was on hand for the May 30 party, as were multimedia performance artist Colette, Studio 54’s jet-set party planner; winery owner Christian Wölffer; Miss Trish of Capri designer Trish Grady, and von Hohenberg’s former roommate. “I lived in that room for 10 years,” King Harris said, gesturing toward the white-walled room now adorned with von Hohenberg’s portraits of Britney Spears, Pee Wee Herman, Angelina Jolie and other well-known faces. The decor was considerably different, Harris said, and the neighboring apartment on the opposite side of his bedroom wall has its own lore. Aside from once being occupied by Mark Twain, it was also where six-year-old Elizabeth “Lisa” Steinberg was fatally beaten. “I wish I had known. I could have tried to save her,” Harris said.
But von Hohenberg was firmly planted in the moment. As last week’s party wore on, he climbed up on a trunk with a camera to get a few shots of the well-wishers.