For once Andy Warhol was left speechless. The occasion was a meeting with Salvador Dalí at New York’s St. Regis Hotel. Dalí beckoned the pop artist into his suite (always room 1610) with a theatrical swirl of his cane. Opera was playing at a deafening volume, Warhol was so nervous he was “guzzling back wine,” according to photographer David McCabe who was there to document the meeting.
Dalí grabbed an Inca headdress and placed it on Warhol’s head. The pair were there for five uncomfortable minutes before Warhol turned to McCabe and said “David, we gotta go.”
The command was prescient. On a subsequent visit, Dalí would tie Warhol to a spinning board and pour paint over him. (Dalí's antics at the St. Regis were legendary. He would startle guests every Sunday, heading down to brunch accompanied by his pet ocelot, Babou, and once ‘accidentally’ let loose a huge box of flies intended for an artwork.)
The photo appears in a new exhibition, The Factory: Warhol And His Circle by David McCabe. It’s a photographic memoir of a year spent at Andy Warhol’s creative powerhouse, The Factory. McCabe was a rising star when Warhol contacted him and asked him to document the eccentrics, luminaries, art dealers, drug dealers, collectors and misfits who passed through the Factory’s doors from 1964 to ‘65. The photographer was given just two orders: not to use flash and to “fit in”.
“A lot of what happened I couldn’t photograph,” he says. “There was no way you could publish those kind of pictures.” On being told the photos didn’t portray Warhol in a way he was keen to cultivate, McCabe filed the negatives away, leaving many of them unprinted for 40 years.
The exhibition, at Proud Gallery in London’s King’s Road, opens this Thursday (27) and runs until December 4. It coincides with the 40th anniversary of Edie Sedgwick’s death. Socialite, model and heiress Sedgwick was one of Warhol’s infamous ‘it’ girls, appearing in his short films and eventually earning the nickname Superstar. However, she and the artist quickly became estranged and following a series of disastrous affairs (including one with Bob Dylan) she died of an accidental drugs overdose in November 1971. Allegedly, when learning of Sedgwick's death, Warhol responded with "Edie who?".
The Factory: Warhol and His Circle by David McCabe opens at Proud Chelsea, London, on October 27 and runs until December 4. If you can't get to the exhibition, you can see all the photos in A Year in the Life of Andy Warhol.