Jerry Saltz on the Unveiling of The Andy Monument

Photo: Christopher Bonanos
Andy’s back in Union Square. Photo: Christopher Bonanos

Last night, the artist Rob Pruitt unveiled his super-shiny, seven-foot chrome monument to Andy Warhol. It’s in Union Square at 17th Street, just yards from two locations of Warhol’s famous Factory, including the one (at 32 Union Square West) where he was shot on June 3, 1968. After pulling the sheet from the monument, Pruitt told me, “I think of it as another kind of Statue of Liberty.” Overhearing this, the former Interview editor and wordsmith extraordinaire Glenn O’Brien mused that the statue’s inscription could read “Give us your rich, your glamorous, your drag queens, and drug addicts.”

The statue — not far from a bronze monument to Gandhi — doesn’t give us the leather-jacket-clad, sunglasses-wearing cool Warhol of the sixties. This is instead the “business art,” Interview magazine, filmmaking Warhol of the seventies, wearing a casual suit, strolling outside with a Polaroid camera around his neck, carrying a full shopping bag, wearing a flattened version of one of his wigs. As Pruitt unveiled the monument to the happy applause of a large crowd of on-lookers, he said, “I hope you like it for more than fifteen minutes,” and then wondered whether being pictured alongside it would make him look fat. I spied Warhol superstars in the audience like Taylor Mead and Ultra Violet, the latter of whom volunteered to me that she was on the phone with another Warhol acolyte, Viva, at the moment Andy was shot. “We were talking about making a 24-hour bathroom movie with Andy of me in a bathtub filled with milk,” she said.

I don’t actually love the statue itself. It doesn’t look that much like Warhol; the face is squished and smallish. But I love the passion behind it and the idea of putting this sculpture in this place at this time. It beautifully evokes the pathos, perversity, and runaway genius of this great swish-hero-artist. Pruitt is right when he says, “Every day, a thousand more kids come to New York propelled by Andy’s legacy … [making] this pilgrimage, coming here to make it big, to be an artist. Like Oscar Wilde’s grave at Père Lachaise, there should be a destination in New York to mark that journey. I think something needs to be in the streets of New York, something you could visit at four-thirty in the morning.” Pruitt’s monument will be on view only through October 2. It should be left here forever.

Jerry Saltz on the Unveiling of The Andy Monument