Ladies and Gentlemen

Andy Warhol American

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 915

Commissioned by Italian art dealer Luciano Anselmino (1943–1979) to create a body of portraits that commemorated New York’s vibrant drag and trans community, Warhol dispatched his studio team to recruit subjects at the Gilded Grape on Eighth Avenue, a favorite haunt of Black and Latinx trans and drag performers not far from the artist’s Factory. Warhol shot some 500 Polaroid portraits of fourteen different subjects, including the legendary drag queen, activist, and LGBTQ+ rights pioneer Marsha P. Johnson (1945–1992) and this sitter, Helen (a.k.a. Harry) Morales (Morales signed two different names on two separate Polaroids). Enlarging a selection of these into photo-mechanically produced silkscreens and underpainting the images with bold, luscious colors, Warhol brought members of this marginalized but vital community to international acclaim—if not material wealth (for Johnson’s part, as she reported to the Village Voice in 1979, the irony of walking past her visage for sale in a gallery window for an extravagant price while she could not afford rent was not lost).

Ladies and Gentlemen, Andy Warhol (American, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 1928–1987 New York), Synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen ink on canvas

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