Yesterday evening a huge crowd squeezed onto the pedestrian plaza at the northeast corner of Broadway and 17th Street at the north end of Union Square, in front of the building that housed Andy Warhol’s legendary Factory studio from 1973 through 1984 (and a few steps from the building where the Factory was between 1967 and 1973), around a figure shrouded in a silvery sheet.
At about 6:15pm—moments after a cab driver, no doubt distracted by all the additional foot traffic, rear-ended the cab in front of him on 17th Street, an accident met with cheers from the assembled crowd—the irreverent art star Rob Pruitt uncloaked his new sculpture, The Andy Monument, a commission for the Public Art Fund.
The chromed slightly-larger-than-life-sized sculpture of Warhol stands seven feet tall atop a classical pedestal inscribed with “The Andy Monument.” It portrays the Modern art pioneer sporting a suit with glasses, a vintage camera hanging from his neck, and a Bloomingdale’s medium brown bag in his right hand.
The crowd was a mix of art world notables (Jerry Saltz may have been the scrappiest of the camera-toting attendees; Gavin Brown chilled out behind the sculpture near a makeshift stand selling Pruitt paraphernalia), commuters stumbling through the scene en route to the Union Square station, and tourists curious about the commotion. Everyone cheered when the sculpture was unwrapped, even those who knew nothing about either artist. People like shiny things.
The sculpture is scheduled to remain on view through October 2, but one hopes it might find a permanent home somewhere in Union Square, or near one of the Factory’s many other locations, rather than, like, a collector’s backyard. Or, as Pruitt—who had an interview with Warhol for a Factory job when he first arrived in New York—explains in a letter explaining the project:
Every day a thousand more kids come to New York propelled by his legacy. And even if the decades pass and Warhol’s legacy becomes further distant, there is a direct link to him—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… Of course it could be argued that someone could just go to the Modern and look at his Soup Cans.. but I think there is something to being truly out in streets of New York, to have something you can visit at 4:30 in the morning, sit on and smoke pot.
Or, you know, do a miniature grand prix circuit worth of coke.