In and Out of Warhol’s Orbit: Photographs by Nat Finkelstein is a compelling and intimate exhibition revealing the complex characters behind the well-documented tensions and hedonism of Andy Warhol’s studio.
The photojournalist spent three years as the house photographer at the Silver Factory, documenting this fascinating and pivotal moment of cultural history in 1960s America. He captured the many artists, producers and musicians who frequented the infamous Factory at the height of its prominence.
In the 1950s, Finkelstein interned for legendary Harper’s Bazaar Art Director, Alexey Brodovitch, before moving on to supply photography for publications such as ‘LIFE’ magazine and ‘Sports Illustrated’. A commission from ‘Pagaent’ magazine in 1962 with a request to photograph the Pop Art scene, allowed him to meet Andy Warhol – and, stunned by the apparent decadence of life at the Factory, Finkelstein resolved to capture this environment teeming with the underground bourgeoisie.
His fascination with the countercultures of the era led him to stay on as the photographer at the Factory for three years, resulting in a collection that has the glamour, energy and edge of a 1960s film set. Upon falling out with Warhol and his turbulent circle, Finkelstein left the Factory in order to pursue a more politically engaged lifestyle.
In 1969, he fled the United States due to a federal drug charge. The allegations were ultimately dropped and Finkelstein returned to the U.S. a decade later to continue documenting artists, musicians, and subcultures including the international rave scene of the 1990s. Following his death in 2009, Nat Finkelstein’s wife Elizabeth established the Estate of Nat Finkelstein to continue the work he left behind and preserve his creative legacy.
Images have since featured on licensed merchandise from companies including NARS cosmetics, Pepe Jeans and Uniqlo, in collaboration with the Andy Warhol Foundation. Furthermore, his photographs are included in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; V&A Museum, London; Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA; and the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institute, Washington, DC.
Through his documentary style photography, Finkelstein discreetly recorded the milieu of creatives and socialites who were regulars at the Factory including Edie Sedgwick, The Velvet Underground, Nico, Brian Jones and Betsey Johnson. Finkelstein had constant access to this unique mix of characters and focused on their idiosyncrasies as artists, rather than their emerging celebrity status. "I am a situational photographer," he once explained; "These unposed images were made when Andy Warhol et al were people, not products; young artists, not celebrities. Enjoy, but don’t venerate."
In and Out of Warhol’s Orbit: Photographs by Nat Finkelstein at Proud Central presents highlights of this three-year period in Finkelstein’s career, where he had extraordinary access to a cultural revolution that shook the very foundations of society.
Through his time at the Factory, Finkelstein's photographic style evolved from photojournalism to fine art; though he often positioned himself too close to the story, it was this intimacy which led to a creative liberation and desire for freedom of expression.
The exhibition includes rare vintage and unique signed prints of Andy Warhol and ‘the Factory Girl’ Edie Sedgwick, along with screentests of a young Bob Dylan.
With a casual and frank, yet thrilling insight into the era, Finkelstein’s work has a distinctive, candid style. His determination and ingenuity allowed him to capture private moments within an exclusive circle, one which was constantly on display to the outside world. Launching on 11 April 2019.