- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 9, 2005

If, say, you are a mid-level economist at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, you rarely get a chance to wear an orange plaid pants and red turtleneck combo out in public. Then, along comes an invite for a “retro chic”-themed party to celebrate the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s new Andy Warhol show. Voila, you’re ready to go.

Sponsored by the 1869 Society, the gallery’s young benefactors group, Friday’s “Studio 1869” bash centered on an impressive selection of the late pop artist’s works on loan from Pittsburgh’s Andy Warhol Museum, featuring (natch) oversized Campbell’s soup cans just behind the atrium bar. It’s hard to tell what Mr. Warhol — a man who surrounded himself with “superstar” freaks, hustlers, glamour queens and hollow-eyed bohemian waifs — would have made of the young bureaucrats, lawyers and developers trying to mimic “Factory” cool attitudes from the storied ‘60s.

But the event did have its moments. There were fine ladies in knee-high boots and mini-skirts (a sort-of 1960s off-duty stewardess look), others in retro floral summer dresses, the requisite number of white Andy wigs and, up in the second floor VIP lounge, MicroStrategy founder Michael Saylor, who had his proverbial “15 minutes of fame” during the dotcom frenzy, alone with his cell phone in the middle of a rather empty room. “He still goes around with a limo and, like, this harem,” one Texas beauty noted.

Warholian licentiousness was in short supply — 1869 young benefactors events always feel like the parents have left the kids home alone in the palace for the weekend, but uniformed security were there to keep things nice and tame. Smokers, almost comically, were banished not just outside the door, but into a raging downpour. Vodka could not be drunk straight up. Some house law forbids it. And the lights came up shortly before 1 a.m. That’s about when people arrivedat Studio 54 in its 1979-80 heyday.

Still, one rarely has the opportunity these days to exit a throbbing dance floor to placidly stroll through a retrospective by the king of pop art: oversized portraits of Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton and Debbie Harry; creepy Death and Disaster pics of car accidents and assassinations, line drawings from the pre-Campbell period and a roomful of Chairman Maos.

Unfortunately, the show’s curator was absent, but a family friend of Mr. Warhol’s did reveal that the artist was not only polite and shy but a big fan of Virginia Woolf.

— Stefan Sullivan


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