How Thanksgiving leftovers helped Andy Warhol hook up with one of his most infamous Seventies collaborators
Plenty of Warhol’s friends helped Andy create his art, from the antiques dealer, Muriel Latow, who, according to some accounts, first suggested Warhol screenprint dollar bills, to Billy Name, the photographer and filmmaker who painted Warhol’s original 1960s Factory walls silver.
During the 1970s, this muse-like position was sometimes occupied by a handsome Venezuelan window dresser called Victor Hugo, and we can thank the all-American celebration of Thanksgiving for bringing his talents to Andy’s attention.
As we explain in our new two-volume publication, The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné, Paintings 1976-1978 - Volume 5, Hugo became part of Warhol’s social circle in 1972, via the fashion designer Halston.
“When Warhol mentioned Victor Hugo for the first time in his published diaries, he referred to him somewhat opaquely as “Halston’s ‘art adviser,’" according to our book. “In Holy Terror, [Warhol confidant] Bob Colacello is more specific but euphemistic, introducing Hugo as 'Halston’s Venezuelan-born window dresser and close friend'."
Shortly thereafter, Hugo began designing the windows for Halston’s Madison Avenue salon, and when Halston placed his first ad in Interview - a caviar bowtie that appeared in the March 1975 issue - it was designed by Hugo.
These window displays weren’t simple clothing presentations. In 1979, Warhol observed that Hugo’s displays were a “theater on the street… filled with pregnant, suicidal mannequins, and mannequins reading my magazine Interview.”
“On an intuitive level Warhol responded to the more transgressive side of Hugo’s window displays,” explains our book. “When he first mentions Hugo in a diary entry for November 28, 1976, it is in reference to his Thanksgiving windows for Halston: 'I’d told him I loved the display window he did of turkey bones… and now someone broke in and took the turkey bones, so he thought it was [laughs] me.'”
Handsome Hugo and his trashy turkey carcass clearly appealed to Warhol. It may have even encouraged him to collaborate with the window dresser in his newer, more provocative series.
“This was precisely the vein that Warhol would tap into when he began to photograph Hugo’s antics in public and private, and initiated a new body of work - the Torso and Sex Parts series,” explains our book. “The body of work was already well underway when he noted the following in his diaries on March 15: Victor came down with a nude poser. I’m having boys come and model nude for photos for the new paintings I’m doing. But I shouldn’t call them nudes. It should be something more artistic. Like 'Landscapes'."
Those Landscapes were not widely displayed during Warhol’s lifetime, but today make up a significant part of his later body of work, and were perhaps his most pronounced expression of sexual desire, and he can, at least in part, give thanks for a bird roasted in November for their realisation. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
For more on Warhol in the mid-to-late 1970s, get The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné, Paintings 1976-1978 - Volume 5. For more on American culinary traditions get America: The Cookbook.