The Factory was the name of Andy Warhol's New York City studio, which had three different locations between 1962 and 1984. The original Factory was on the fifth floor at 231 East 47th Street, in Midtown Manhattan. The rent was "only about one hundred dollars a year". Warhol left in 1968 when the building was scheduled to be torn down to make way for an apartment building. The studio then relocated to the sixth floor of the Decker Building at 33 Union Square West near the corner of East 16th Street, where it remained until 1973, when it moved to 860 Broadway at the north end of Union Square. Although this space was much larger, not much filmmaking took place there, and in 1984 what remained of Warhol's various enterprises, no longer including filming actitivies, moved to 22 East 33rd Street, a conventional office building.
The Factory was the hip hangout for artsy types, amphetamine users, and the Warhol superstars. It was famed for its groundbreaking parties. In the studio, Warhol's workers would make silkscreens and lithographs. In 1968, Warhol moved the Factory to the sixth floor of the Decker Building, 33 Union Square West, near Max's Kansas City, a club Warhol and his entourage would frequently visit.
Speaking in 2002, John Cale said "It wasn't called the Factory for nothing. It was where the assembly line for the silkscreens happened. While one person was making a silkscreen, somebody else would be filming a screen test. Every day something new."
By the time Warhol had become famous, he was working day and night on his paintings. To create his art, Warhol used silkscreens so that he could mass-produce images the way corporations mass-produce consumer goods. In order to continue working the way he did, he assembled a menagerie of adult film performers, drag queens, socialites, drug addicts, musicians, and free-thinkers that became known as the Warhol Superstars, to help him. These "art-workers" helped him create his paintings, starred in his films, and basically developed the atmosphere for which the Factory became legendary.
The Silver Factory
The original Factory was often referred to by those who frequented it as the Silver Factory. Covered with tin foil and silver paint, the Factory was decorated by Warhol's friend Billy Name, who was also the in-house photographer at the Factory. Warhol would often bring in silver balloons to drift around the ceiling.
Upon visiting Billy Name's apartment, which had been decorated in a similar manner, Warhol fell in love with the idea and asked him to do the same for his recently leased loft. The silver represented the decadence of the scene, as well as the proto-glam of the early sixties. Silver, fractured mirrors, and tin foil were the basic decorating materials loved by the early amphetamine users of the sixties. Billy Name was the perfect person to take this style and cover the whole factory, even the elevator. By combining the industrial structure of the unfurnished studio with the glitter of silver and what it represented, Warhol was commenting on American values, as he did so often in his art. The years spent at the Factory were known as the Silver Era, not solely because of the design, but because of the decadent and carefree lifestyle full of money, parties, drugs and fame.
Aside from his two-dimensional art, Andy also used the Factory as a base to make shoes, films, commissions, sculptures and just about everything else that the Warhol name could be attached to and sold. His first commissions consisted of a single silkscreen portrait for $25,000, with additional canvases in other colors for $5,000 each. He later made that $20,000. Warhol used a large portion of his income to finance the lifestyle of his Factory friends, practically showering them with resources.
The Factory became a meeting place of artists and musicians such as Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, Truman Capote and Mick Jagger. Other, less frequent visitors included Salvador Dalí and Allen Ginsberg. Warhol collaborated with Reed's influential New York rock band The Velvet Underground in 1965, and designed the famous cover for The Velvet Underground & Nico, the band's debut album. The album cover consisted of a plastic yellow banana that the listener could actually peel off to reveal a flesh-hued version of the banana. Warhol also designed the album cover for The Rolling Stones' album Sticky Fingers.
Warhol included the Velvet Underground in the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, a spectacle that combined art, rock, Warhol films and dancers of all kinds, as well as live S&M enactments and imagery. The Velvet Underground and EPI used the Factory as a place to rehearse, though the definition of "rehearsal" should only be taken loosely.
"Walk on the Wild Side", Lou Reed's best known song from his solo career, was released on his first commercially successful solo album Transformer. The song is about the superstars he hung out with at the Factory. He mentions Holly Woodlawn, Candy Darling, Joe Dallesandro, Jackie Curtis and Joe Campbell (referred to in the song by his Factory nickname Sugar Plum Fairy).
Andy Warhol commented on mainstream America through his art while disregarding its strict social views. Nudity, graphic sexuality, drug use, same-sex relations and transgender characters appear in some form in almost all of his work filmed at the Silver Factory. Considered socially unacceptable, even appalling at the time, theaters showing his underground films were sometimes raided and the staff arrested for obscenity.
However, by making the films, Warhol created a sexually lenient environment at the Factory for the happenings that they staged, such as fake drag weddings, porn theater rentals, and vulgar plays. A large amount of free love took place in the scene, as sexuality in the 1960s was becoming more open. Sex was practically a must for anyone hanging around, and was encouraged by Warhol, who used footage of sexual acts between his friends in his work.
Also part of 'the scene' at the Factory were famous drag queens such as Holly Woodlawn and Jackie Curtis, and transgender Candy Darling. As an artist, Andy Warhol frequently used these women and other sexual non-conformists in his films, plays, and on-goings.
Ondine once said, "I was at an orgy, and [Warhol] was, ah, this great presence in the back of the room. And this orgy was run by a friend of mine, and, so, I said to this person, 'Would you please mind throwing that thing [Warhol] out of here?' And that thing was thrown out of there, and when he came up to me the next time, he said to me, 'Nobody has ever thrown me out of a party.' He said, 'You know? Don't you know who I am?' And I said, 'Well, I don't give a good flying fuck who you are. You just weren't there. You weren't involved...'"
Not only was Billy Name responsible for the silver look of the Factory, but he also found The Factory's beloved red couch. He discovered it on the sidewalk of 47th street during one of his "midnight outings." He dragged it back to the Factory, where it quickly became a favorite place for Factory guests to crash, usually after coming down from speed. During its stay at the Factory, the couch became a focal point for many photographs and films from the Silver era, including Couch and Blow Job. It was stolen in 1968 during the move when it was left unattended on the sidewalk for a short while.
Friends of Warhol and superstars who hung around the Factory include Edie Sedgwick, Gerard Malanga, Ondine, Ivy Nicholson, Ingrid Superstar, Anita Pallenberg, Nico, The Velvet Underground (Lou Reed, Sterling Morrison, Maureen Tucker, and John Cale), Johnny Conflict, Candy Darling, Jeremiah Newton, Jim Morrison, Jackie Curtis, Gage Henrich, Frank Holliday, Holly Woodlawn, Viva, Billy Name, Rotten Rita, David Bowie, Freddie Herko, Mario Montez, Brian Jones, Grace Jones, Mick Jagger, Noelle Wolf, Joe Dallesandro, Naomi Levine, Joe Dro, Paul Morrissey, Stephen Shore, Betsey Johnson, Truman Capote, Becky D, Fernando Arrabal, Taylor Mead, Mary Woronov, Ronnie Cutrone, Jane Forth, Lenny Dahl, Neke Carson, Baby Jane Holzer, Ultra Violet, Brigid Polk, Rickpat F, Paul America, Penny Arcade, Bobby Driscoll, Herbert Muschamp Peter Gramlique, and John Giorno, Brigid Berlin, Danny Williams, Chuck Wein, William Burroughs, Ulli Lommel, although there were many other visitors as well.
Warhol started shooting movies in the Factory around 1963, when work began on Kiss. Warhol would screen movies at the Factory for his friends before they were released for public audiences. When Warhol could not find traditional theaters to show some of his more provocative films, he would sometimes turn to night-clubs or porn theaters. Here is listed all movies filmed entirely or partly at The Factory. Warhol also shot other films not on this list, however, many have been lost or were never completed.
Later movies were filmed away from the Factory, or in another one of Warhol's New York apartments.
- Alleman, Richard. The Movie Lover's Guide to New York. New York: Harper & Row, 1988. ISBN 0060960809, pp.150-152
- Max's Kansas City's Andy Warhol Biography
- My 15 minutes | Special reports | Guardian Unlimited
- The Warholstars Chronology
- "Billy Name" on the Warhol Stars website