Andy Warhol piece as exhibited in Hotel Bel Aire.
Art and culture

Jim Hedges on Andy Warhol’s photography

February 02, 2022

As a prolific collector of Warhol’s work, Jim Hedges prepares to exhibit a series of Warhol’s photos from his collection at Hotel Bel-Air. Discover his fascination and admiration for the ground-breaking artist.

How did you first become interested in Warhol’s work?

As a young man in Tennessee, I was always attracted to Andy Warhol’s Interview Magazine, which gave me a gateway into the exciting life of artists, celebrities and cultural figures in downtown New York. While I cannot pinpoint exactly when Warhol’s photos captured my imagination, it’s true that his Polaroid portraits are some of the most recognisable and iconic images of the late 20th century. After learning about Warhol’s world through Interview Magazine, and then appreciating his Polaroid portraits, I moved into a deeper appreciation and study of his photos.

Art collector Jim Hedges
Courtesy of Hedges Projects, Los Angeles
Jim Hedges collector photograph of Carol Burnett by Andy Warhol
Courtesy Hedges Projects, Los Angeles. Copyright The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

Which of Warhol’s photos do you find the most compelling?

I’m most interested in Warhol’s silver gelatin prints, unique 35mm black & white photographs he took from 1976, up to his death in 1987. These photos are the most comprehensive visual diary of his life, friends, work, travels and obsessions. Without this body of work, one can never fully understand Warhol’s process and genius. The final body of photographic work Warhol made was a series of ‘stitched’ photos. He would take a black & white photo, enlarge several copies of it and stitch them together with a sewing machine to create new artworks. This body of work is the smallest and most evolved of all his photographic work.

Tell us more about Warhol’s art-making process.

Warhol was originally a king of appropriation, borrowing images and ideas from others to incorporate in his own artwork. His paintings, even the most important early paintings like Marilyn Monroe, Marlon Brando, Elvis, and Jackie O, were created from copies of photos made by Hollywood publicity teams or newspapers. In the late 1960s, Warhol was sued for copyright infringement, following that ruling he decided to rely solely on his own photos as his source material. For the last 20 years of his life, nearly every single artwork began as a photograph. Warhol would take Polaroid portraits of celebrities, art patrons and friends, then blow up the images onto plastic screens, which were used in the making of both prints and paintings.

Black and white photo of Andy Warhol with celebrity
Courtesy Hedges Projects, Los Angeles. Copyright The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.
Andy Warhol photography in black and white, man by plane
Courtesy Hedges Projects, Los Angeles. Copyright The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

What have you learned about Warhol through your appreciation of his photography?

Photography was his most enduring and important artistic tool.  Warhol had a darkroom in his childhood home, and he carried a camera with him almost every day. The last decade of his life though provided a period of phenomenal productivity, wherein he shot tens of thousands of images, creating a visual diary of his life, his process, his relationships, and even his obsessions. Without delving deep into his black & white photos, one would never be able to fully grasp the complexity of his work, nor the real man behind his very guarded and honed façade.

How should we remember Andy Warhol?

Well, Warhol is simply one of the world’s greatest artists, like Rembrandt, da Vinci and Picasso. His work crossed different mediums, styles, production processes and audiences. Nobody else in the 20th century offered the quality, breadth and depth of subjects and sheer output than Warhol.  He’s best-known as a pop artist, but he was also an exceptional conceptual artist.

Men gathered poolside including Andy Warhol
Courtesy Hedges Projects, Los Angeles. Copyright The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.
Woman in leopard dress with birthday cake shot by Andy Warhol
Courtesy Hedges Projects, Los Angeles. Copyright The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

What was the first Warhol artwork you bought?

The first Warhol I bought was a 1980 Marilyn reversal painting, which remains to this day one of his most iconic and stunning images. At the time, reversals were viewed as secondary to his larger painting style, but today they are equally revered. Seeing the appeal and value in Warhol’s work, even when misunderstood or under-appreciated, has been a great blessing for me.

What makes Hotel Bel-Air the right place to show your exclusive collection?

Hotel Bel-Air is a divine venue for Warhol’s work. It’s a great space for quiet contemplation, offering a beautiful and relaxing setting, which feels like a private residence. It provides the perfect backdrop for appreciating art.

North fountain ground at at Hotel Bel-Air, Los Angeles

The Jim Hedges Collection of Andy Warhol exhibition was on display at Hotel Bel-Air from February 14 – April 14, 2022.

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