To say that print magnate and industrialist Peter M. Brant was an admirer of Andy Warhol would be an understatement. Co-producer of the Peabody- and Emmy-award winning PBS documentary, Andy Warhol: A Documentary (2006), member of the Advisory Council of the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, and owner of one of the largest personal collections of Andy Warhol works in existence, Brant was, and is, one of Warhol's greatest supporters. As we learned during a recent tour by Brant himself of Andy Warhol at the Brant Foundation Study Center, Brant's by-appointment-only gallery located on his sprawling Greenwich, Connecticut estate, he was also a true friend. Striking up a kinship that would last till Warhol's death in 1980, in his early 20's the young Brant (then a polo player) was introduced to the iconic artist by legendary New York gallerist Leo Castelli, later using part of an investment from his Grandfather to buy his first work: a Campbell’s black bean soup can print from 1962.
Starting with this first important addition, Brant would go on to acquire many highly influential career-spanning works of Warhol, previously only viewable by friends and select guests of the Brant family. Now for the first time, Brant has opened up almost the entirety of his Warhol collection for public view, from Warhol’s iconic pop portraits of Liz Taylor and Elvis Presley, to lesser-known and more subversive pieces like “12 Electric Chairs” and “Green Disaster.” This impressive showing, created under the watchful eye of Heiner Bastian (responsible for overseeing the traveling international Warhol retrospective of 2001-2002), bears more of Brant's mark than just the name on the event invite. Working in tandem with Andy, as much patron as collaborator, Brant was not only the occasional subject of Andy's works (appearing in photos alongside famous icons like Dennis Hopper, Vogue editor Diana Vreeland and singer Diana Ross), but also playing a hand in bringing to life two of the rare films on display: 1973's L’Amour (shot in Paris and featuring a young Karl Lagerfeld), and Bad (1977) which as Brant recently described in an interview with the Wall Street Journal "was pretty bad."
For the current installation, the Brant Foundation also borrowed framed magazine covers from Interview, the paradigm-shifting magazine initially founded by Warhol himself. Created in1988 with the intention to publish celebrity conversations, Brant was a major player in Interview's early days, and when Warhol died in 1987 Brant bought Interview, which he still owns, in order to keep the artist's legacy alive. Also a fixture on the Factory scene, Brant would often meet with regulars like Fred Hughes, Vincent Fremont and Bob Colacello, later providing unique insight into Andy's world few had access to.
Though the majority of the works come from the Foundation's private collection, some pieces, such as a giant Mao print Mr. and Mrs. Brant donated to the Met Museum in the late '70s, were able to make a rare appearance alongside their complimentary works. In addition to the large-scale pieces that have come to characterize Andy's legacy, the exhibit also features a menagerie of collectibles from Andy's private collection, including select pieces of Andy Warhol’s own furniture from his home. For true fans, there are also sketches from his early commercial work with Tiffany's, select art deco pieces and rococo bedding, and of course—a smattering of objects of profound kitsch. For those used to seeing Warhol in the guard- protected and camera- recorded confines of a gallery, this exhibit offers unprecedented access, allowing viewers up close to experience the tactile nature of Warhol's art. From the raised stickiness of dried paint on a print, to the pen stokes of his early illustrations, for a die-hard Warhol aficionado this show is nothing short of exhilarating.
While a splashy opening was recently held in May to fete the exhibition’s launch (featuring stars like Leonard DiCaprio and Owen Wilson, in addition to their art world counterparts Marilyn Minter, Larry Clark, and Larry Gagosian), perhaps the best time to view this expansive show is on your own: when the multi-level exhibition can truly move you the way its creators intended. Though the show alone is worth the drive to Greenwich, the Foundation’s grounds also prove fertile territory for art lovers; with large-scale permanent sculptures by Jeff Koons and Urs Fischer standing watch over the manicured green lawns.
For those interested in the Brant Foundation Study Center gallery, their next show is Julian Schnabel, followed by Richard Prince in the near future (among others). On view by appointment through September at the Brant Foundation, Andy Warhol will subsequently embark on an international museum tour, including stops in Milan, Los Angeles, and elsewhere (dates to be announced).
The Brant Foundation Art Study Center, is located at 941 North Street, Greenwich, Connecticut, and is open Monday through Friday by appointment only. The exhibition will remain on view through September 2013. To schedule an appointment, guests may email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Currently, The Brant Foundation, Inc., established in 1996, lends works to more than a dozen exhibitions per year.