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The Andy Warhol Diaries looks at "intensely private" life of Pittsburgh-born pop artist

click to enlarge The Andy Warhol Diaries looks at "intensely private" life of Pittsburgh-born pop artist
Photo: Andy Warhol Foundation/Netflix
Still from The Andy Warhol Diaries
It’s easy to assume that history has revealed everything there is to know about Andy Warhol, mostly due to his penchant for the spotlight and a persona that often overshadowed his own work. A new Netflix series will set out to prove that the late Pittsburgh-born pop artist had more up his sleeve, and the museum dedicated to his legacy had a hand in the work.

Set to premiere on Wed., March 9, The Andy Warhol Diaries is described by the streaming service as a “breathtakingly expansive, six-part portrait” of Warhol that traces his Pittsburgh origins through his “almost unbelievably diverse journey fluidly moving between mediums and through eras as an artist — both revered and reviled — director, publisher, TV producer, scene maker, celebrity and much more.” It’s also being touted as providing insight into Warhol’s "intensely private" personal life from the “intimate vantage point offered by the artist’s own posthumously published diaries.”

The show has a number of big names behind it, the most prominent being television writer and producer Ryan Murphy (American Horror Story, among many other projects), as well as interview subjects like film director John Waters and actor Rob Lowe.

The privileged look into Warhol’s life was made possible by working with The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh’s North Side, where archivists and curators have worked to preserve, examine, and recontextualize its namesake’s body of work.

Patrick Seymour serves as the museum’s manager of rights, reproductions, and photographic services and says that the Warhol diaries in question start at the end of 1976 and stretch up until his death on Feb. 22, 1987.

“And so that's where a lot of the material that they were focusing on was,” says Seymour, who adds that he started working with series director Andrew Rossi in early 2020.
click to enlarge The Andy Warhol Diaries looks at "intensely private" life of Pittsburgh-born pop artist
Photo: Andy Warhol Foundation/Netflix
Still from The Andy Warhol Diaries

Rossi and his crew began shooting at the museum, beginning with Andy Warhol: Revelation, a show that ran from Oct. 20, 2019 through March 1, 2020, and was described as the first exhibition to comprehensively examine Warhol’s “complex Catholic faith in relation to his artistic production.”

Seymour says the Netlfix crew also spent two days in the archives and talked with archivist Matt Gray and Jessica Beck, the curator behind the museum’s illuminating Marisol and Warhol Take New York exhibition.

“And they were looking at a lot of archival material,” says Seymour. “But they were talking a lot about Jon Gould and Jed Johnson, Warhol’s boyfriends throughout the late '70s to early '80s.”

He says the crew also requested materials about some of the up-and-coming artists associated with Warhol around the time the diaries were written, like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, and Julian Schnabel, as well as his later film and video works, including his 1985 talk show Andy Warhol's Fifteen Minutes.

Seymour believes that by his late-career, Warhol disappeared into a public image, which made it more difficult to understand him as a person and as an artist.

“He became, you know, Andy Warhol, like the Andy Warhol, and there's less of Andy Warhol as a human,” Seymour says, adding that the Netlfix crew seemed more interested in looking at his relationships with Johnson and Gould, and his life as a queer man. “I think this is going to take a pretty close look at that.”
Though it has yet to air, the series has already raised some eyebrows through its use of “cutting-edge AI techniques” to recreate Warhol’s voice, which can be heard in the series trailer (above). The approach generated controversy last year when Roadrunner, another documentary, garnered criticism for faking late celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain’s voice without permission. However, unlike with Roadrunner, some outlets are reporting that the makers of The Andy Warhol Diaries were given approval from the Andy Warhol Foundation in New York to use the so-called “robot voice.”

Regardless of how viewers feel about the uncanny valley Warhol voice (frankly, Warhol himself probably would have loved it), Seymour believes the series will provide some insight into a period of Warhol’s career when he was less regarded.

“A lot of people focus on his work in the ‘60s and pop art and, it's not that they write off the rest of it, but outside of the Warhol Museum and outside of people doing specific shows, there doesn't seem to be a lot of focus on his later output,” says Seymour. “Especially with his video work and TV shows, and his collaborative work with Basquiat, that's a lot of really interesting stuff that he did in the late ‘70s and ‘80s. And I think this will connect a lot of those dots and sort of highlight that period of his career.”

The Andy Warhol Diaries will premiere Wed., March 9 on Netflix

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