The director of a new documentary about Factory film-maker Danny Williams who disappeared in 1966, says Andy Warhol’s homosexuality has effectively been erased from his personal history because his work is more saleable that way.
Warhol is the second most traded artist on the market after Picasso. At the last edition of ArtBasel/Miami Beach, over 20 galleries were showing his work and he is one of the very few Western artists whose work sells across the world from Russia to the Middle East and China.
Esther Robinson, Danny Williams’s niece, has just completed a documentary about her uncle. In the course of her research, she was given access to audio tapes held by the Warhol archive which are not available to the general public because of a 50-year moratorium. She says these tapes contain material which makes it clear her uncle and Warhol shared an “intimate” relationship.
“There’s [a] force in the public representation of Warhol to deny him a sexual identity…as an art commodity he’s safer as a non-sexualised person. I think there’s incredible vested interests in that,” says Ms Robinson.
Joel Wachs, director of the Warhol Foundation, says the 50-year moratorium is intended to “protect the rights of privacy of individual third persons”. In response to Ms Robinson’s claim of vested interests, he says: “She’s full of prunes, it’s simply not true.”
Michael Findlay, a director of Acquavella Galleries in New York, says: “I am quite positive there is no conspiracy to de-sexualise Warhol’s work for market purposes. Most of us dealers are happy to have a hook upon which to hang a sale, and sex is as good a one as any.”
Oliver Barker, head of contemporary art at Sotheby’s in London, adds: “I don’t think the point is that [Warhol] abstained from sex. I think the point is that it was a mystery—his sexuality was a mystery as much as his diet was a mystery.”
The Warhol audio tapes will not be publicly available until at least 2037. Until then, the mystery remains.
o For feature on “A Walk into the Sea: Danny Williams and the Warhol Factory”, p47
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Film-maker claims Warhol cover up'