Fashion and art have been enjoying a crossover of late, but the relationship is not as new as some might think.
Take the connection between two of America’s most influential creative figures of the 20th century: Andy Warhol (1928-87) and designer Halston (1932-90), known in his 1970s heyday for dressing the likes of Liza Minnelli and Lauren Hutton. The men’s influence over one another is the focus of Halston and Warhol: Silver and Suede, which opens on May 18 at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.
“It’s an exhibition that looks at Halston through a Warholian lens and, on the flipside, Warhol through the lens of Halston,” says Nicholas Chambers, a curator who worked on the show with Halston’s niece Lesley Frowick. “It’s a show that focuses on their points of intersection.”
That shared focus was born of many years of friendship and the common language of two visionaries who both reflected pop culture and shaped it.
To underline the connection between the two men’s work, there is a juxtaposition of parallel pieces: the pillbox hat that Halston created for Jackie Kennedy set beside Warhol’s silkscreens of her wearing it; clothing and art inspired by (separate) trips to China; a Halston dress and scarf in one of Warhol’s distinctive giant flower prints.
As you would expect, there are also pieces from the 1970s, when the friends spent evenings at famous New York nightclub Studio 54: slinky dresses; silkscreens of tickets to the club and portraits of habituals such as Minnelli; Warhol’s snapshots in a sense, the selfies of their day, capture nights out with Elizabeth Taylor and Bianca Jagger.
For passing followers of fashion, the disco years have tended to overshadow Halston’s career before that period, something that Silver and Suede sets out to change. People consider the 1970s to be all of Halston’s life that it was all about Studio 54, “but that was only three or four years,” says Frowick. “It was a place where they went to have fun, but also to congratulate their friends on their accomplishments, to check out the trends and to network.”
To illustrate the breadth of Halston’s work, the show includes pieces from beyond the late 1970s, including some from Frowick’s collection that have been rarely shown publicly.
The most striking inclusions are ephemera, a note that accompanied a Strip-a-gram sent to Warhol from Halston in 1982; airline tickets for a joint trip to Washington; invitations to parties co-hosted by Halston and by 1970s personalities from former first lady Betty Ford to Mikhail Baryshnikov. These are mementos that bear witness to a real friendship.
“They were very much in awe of each other, and they appreciated each other on so many different levels,” says Frowick, who worked in her uncle’s design studio for several years. “They were both self-made men and were impressed with each other’s success. They cared for each other a lot.”
“Halston and Warhol: Silver and Suede” is at the Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, from May 18 to August 24. warhol.org