Christophe von Hohenberg: 
Warhol’s Last Party: Pictures from the Memorial

Fotografiska, Sweden, 16 May – August 24

Complications following a routine surgical procedure didn’t just bring about the end of one of the most influential artists of all time; they also heralded the close of a magical era in New York lasting from around 1968 to 1987. Photographer Christophe von Hohenberg was one of the more keen-eyed witnesses of the days of the disco era, and was sent by Vanity Fair to cover the memorial service for Warhol that was held on 1 April, 31 years ago. Now, his photos are to be shown at Fotografiska.

Liza Minelli and Bianca Jagger were there, as were photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, Debbie Harry, the singer of Blondie, and the artists Keith Haring and Yoko Ono, along with many fashion designers, bankers, and gallerists. They all wore dark, sombre colours, and were elegantly dressed down in expensive designer clothing–the women in plenty of pearls, and the men in suits. In Christophe von Hohenberg’s pictures, you can see them all arrive on foot or in taxis at St Patrick’s Church, where speeches would be given and music would be played. However, these unique records of this day’s events ended up going unpublished, at least for a time.

–The editor of Vanity Fair wanted the pictures for a fashion editorial. My job was actually to keep track of whom among the memorial service guests arrived in mini skirts, because Steven Sprouse, a punk designer and close friend of Warhol’s, was about to release a new collection of miniskirts. Naturally, nobody wore one, and my photos ended up spending 20 years in storage, explains Christophe von Hohenberg, who will be coming to Sweden to give a talk about the pictures, his memories from the time, and the people he knew.

It wasn’t until 20 years later that a friend found the boxes in von Hohenberg’s home. Since the pictures had never been published, he owned the exclusive rights to them. An exhibition followed, and then, the publication of the book The Day the Factory Died. A tribute to a lost age, to his own “la belle époque.”

–It was an incredible time to be alive, but of course you never realised that while it was all going on. The way I see it, there never really were any 70s; the 60s ended with Vietnam in 1974, and from there it was all just an overture to the 80s. The 60s lit the spark that became the 80s, says von Hohenberg.

Christophe von Hohenberg started his photography career working for major US magazines (Vogue, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, Fortune, etc) in the late 70s. This was a golden age for magazines, and the editorial staffs were constantly on the lookout for close-up photographic evidence of anything from war zones to celebrity glamour. Von Hohenberg’s ability to move unhindered through New York’s plethora of subcultures and cliques made him highly sought-after. Eventually, he also worked for Andy Warhol’s own magazine, Interview, which was founded in 1969.