Seeing Red: Ekstract Explains the Context Surrounding the Red Self Portrait

The extraordinary level of detail emerging in the New York Review of Books surrounding the Warhol Red Self Portraits that were denied by the Warhol Authenticity Board continues to amaze and thrill readers. The conversation began with Richard Dorment’s essay on the series of works that made a strong case for their authenticity.

Now Richard Ekstract gives more details from the moment in art history. Ekstract had arranged for Warhol to get use of a video camera—then a new consumer product—and tapes for free. This represented a huge monetary value to Warhol which he would later repay with a gift of the materials to make a series of the Red Self Portraits that now stand at the heart of the controversy:

I agreed to sponsor the world premiere of these videos in an underground location. The party was held on an unused rail platform underneath the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, adjacent to the tracks of the New York Central Railroad. Guests had to enter through a fire door on East 49th Street and descend two long staircases to reach the tracks, which then had to be crossed to reach the platform. The Waldorf Astoria Hotel was kind enough to run an electric line down to the platform so we could show the work. We had to move in by hand the bulky equipment needed to project the sound and video. We weren’t able to serve food at the party because there were rats around.

TheNew York Herald Tribune had a photographer on hand to document everything—including a staged “happening” in which two costumed Elizabethan swordsmen suddenly began dueling on the platform. The story with photos appeared in the Sunday edition of the Herald Tribune. The red Warhol self-portrait was on display for all to see. And a new chapter of art history was written in the bowels of Manhattan.

Warhol Under the Waldorf (New York Review of Books Letters)

How Andy Warhol’s Red Self Portraits Were Made (New York Review of Books)

‘What Andy Warhol Did’: An Exchange from the June 9, 2011 issue

The Warhol Foundation on Trial from the February 25, 2010 issue

What Is a Warhol?: An Exchange from the December 17, 2009 issue

‘What Is an Andy Warhol?’: An Exchange from the November 19, 2009 issue