The secrets of the artist Warhol: an unfulfilled dream - "I love Breker's sculptures as much as I love D'Alessandro"
By Marco Bodenstein
Andy Warhol with his friend Marco Bodenstein in the famous Club Nachtigal (Nightingale) in Bonn, Germany.
Joe D'Alessandro, Andy Warhol's friend (1973).
Bonn/Paris. There are many secrets about Andy Warhol. He has never written about them. He took them with his death on February 27, 1987 into the grave. To one unfulfilled dream of the POP-ART star belonged the wish to let the main character of his film "Flesh", Joe D'Alessandro, be portrayed in bronze by the sculptor Arno Breker.
"I love Breker's sculptures as much as I love Joe, and even more", said Warhol at a meeting with the publisher of the artist, Joe F. Bodenstein. The memories about this first meeting of Warhol with my father is very much present in my mind, because I was there. It was in the night club "Nachtigall" ("Nightingale') in Bonn. It belonged to our and Warhol's friend, the gallery owner Hermann Wünsche. As Warhol from 1975 on started to concentrate more on portraits, Wünsche used to invite him regularly to Germany.
In that way originated the serigraphs and original works "Portrait of Willy Brandt". The commissions for these were given by Wünsche, because he wished to immortalize in modern art the first German Social-Democratic Chancellor. Another large format portrait Warhol created of Mildred Scheel, the founder of the German Cancer Society and wife of the former German President. Also the Cologne Cathedral, the great, world-renowned cathedral on the Rhine, was the object of a typical Warholian graphic. Finally, Warhol had created for this friend and art patron Hermann Wünsche a colorful graphic of the composer Ludwig van Beethoven.
How the first meeting between Breker's publisher and Andy Warhol came about, reports Joe F. Bodenstein in his (still unpublished) memoires "Memories about Artists". I quote from it the following excerpt:
"Our meeting place suited Andy Warhol's mood. It was the "Nightingale", a small, intimate bar, into which its owner, Hermann Wünsche, admitted only selected people. Warhol found this semi-dark bar very pleasant. It was located in the vicinity of his hotel "Bristol" on the same Crown Prince Street as Wünsche's leading art gallery in the capital on the Rhine.
Warhol sat at the bar, as I arrived around 6:30 p.m. with my son Marco. He drank Coca Cola. The atmosphere was uncomplicated. Warhol knew, whom he was meeting. And we were familiar with the appearance of the glittering person of Czech ancestry, who has become the leading POP-artist in the United States. Being the younger, I introduced myself to him. Then, Warhol came straight to the point. He was fascinated by the art of Arno Breker.
An innocently looking youth with a baby
Then Warhol pulled out a photograph from his wallet. It was a picture of a naked young man with a baby on his left knee. It could have been a photograph for advertisements: a young father advertises baby cream or vaseline. Then I discovered a bold tattoo on the right shoulder on the otherwise innocently looking youth. I thought: there must be something more to this.
"I would be happy, if Breker could make a bronze sculpture of this youth."
I said that it looked really interesting. Then I asked: "How old the youth?"
Finally I found out the background. The beautiful youth, then still unknown to me, was the lover-star of the just released film "Flesh", Joe D'Alessandro. Warhol produced the erotic film "Flesh for Frankenstein" with Paul Morrissey as director in 1974. The charming Joe lets all of his clothes fall off to the music of George Gershwin. Another main role is played by the German actor Udo Kier. Warhol's observations of beauty, love and success are packed in humor and sarcasm.
Joe D'Alessandro was born in Pensacola, Florida on December 31, 1948, and thus was 20 years younger than Warhol. He met him during his "blossoming of his youth". I asked Warhol, why he wanted to have the desirable youth portrayed by Breker.
The answer was: "I love Breker's sculptures, as much as I love Joe -- and even more. Sculptures are more loyal then men, they cannot run away."
Fascinated by the sculpture "The Wounded"
Breker's work has caught his attention while he was still a young man, confided in us Warhol at the third Cola with rum. "I have first seen the photograph of Breker's "The Wounded". This figure contains for me so many emotions: strength, beauty, tenderness, sorrow and brutality", was Warhol's interpretation.
I showed my amazement: "Why has the great Warhol, the king of POP-ART, secretly such a great interest in classical realism?"
And he said without much thinking about it: "The longing for beauty is especially strong in me. I require also in my art aesthetics and beauty. And I express these in my own way."
He said that he was versatile. And what concerns the interest in the beauty of the body, he goes back "to the roots" of his heritage. "The roots lie in Czechoslovakia and therefore in Europe. Then, the Ancient Greece does not leave one's thoughts."
Spontaneously I ask Warhol: "And what do you actually not like?"
Warhol said, with a bold look directly into my eyes: "What I don't want I only know, when I got it."
Andy Warhol and Breker's Editor Joe F. Bodenstein discussing cooperation in art and the "Project d'Allesandro".
The end of this fascinating story is, that the sculpture that Warhol wanted so much, did not materialize due to initial difficulties in arranging the meeting. Joe D'Alessandro's visit to Europe and in Breker's atelier was delayed. As Andy Warhol died on Sunday, February 27, 1987 in New York Hospital during a gall bladder operation, his dream for a sculpture of Joe D'Alessandro finally ended. In common remained for both artists only the month of their deaths. Arno Breker died on February 13, 1991 at the age of almost 91 years. He lived four years longer than his artist colleague Warhol, who was 28 years younger.
"The Wounded", by Arno Breker
The Wounded, by Arno Breker (detail)
Copyright 1987 MARCO, Bonn, Germany.
Keep informed - join our newsletter:
Copyright 2001 West-Art
PROMETHEUS, Internet Bulletin for Art, Politics and Science,
Nr. 80, Autumn 2001