The Lankton/Warhol Connections

A photograph of 34 people at Area nightclub.

Photo by Michael Halsband, 1984. Courtesy of the Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh.


The Lankton/Warhol Connections

by Grace Marston, Museum Studies Intern at the Mattress Factory - Fall 2020

When I sought to conduct my Museum Studies Internship at the Mattress Factory’s Greer Lankton Archives, part of the idea was to get some museum experience outside of the Andy Warhol Museum, where I have worked for nine years. Indeed, it has been extremely rewarding to work in a different museum with a different collection, yet I started noticing connections between Lankton and Warhol on my very first day.

Greer Lankton’s datebooks indicate that she went to nightclubs like Pyramid, Palladium, and Club 57 during her years in New York in the early 1980s. Andy Warhol frequented those same clubs. Lankton created dolls modeled after Divine and Diana Vreeland, who were both friends with Warhol. Lankton knew Rene Richard, Teri Toye, and Stephen Sprouse, who are all mentioned in Warhol’s diaries. Peter Hujar photographed both Lankton and Warhol. Lankton compiled folders of magazine clippings about Warhol Superstars such as Jane Forth and Candy Darling. Lankton owned a book of Warhol’s prints and cut out images of several artworks.

Sometime in the afternoon of my first day at the Mattress Factory, I came across a newspaper clipping of an advertisement for a nightclub called Area. It was a group photo taken by Michael Halsband featuring 34 people, a dalmatian, and a horse. On the far left of the photo was Andy Warhol, and on the far right was Greer Lankton. I recognized many of the people in between. It was exciting to see evidence that these two artists were in the same room at the same time, at least once.

I spent the next few weeks digitally cataloging photographs in the Greer Lankton Archives and generating content for the Mattress Factory’s social media accounts, but my mind kept returning to that Area photo. Eventually, I discovered that the Andy Warhol Museum had a behind-the-scenes photo that Warhol had taken on the day of the Area photoshoot. I also found that Stanford University’s collection of Warhol photos contained two more contact sheets of behind-the-scenes images from that photo shoot. I decided to use these resources to begin a research project about the Area photo.

I managed to identify 26 of the 34 people in the photo. I learned a lot about the lives of the regulars at this notorious nightclub, people who were part of both Lankton and Warhol’s worlds. I’m not surprised by Lankton’s quote that Warhol was the “dullest person I ever met;” she clearly knew a lot of fascinating people who were probably much less reserved than Warhol. Despite the pithy quote, obviously she was a Warhol fan in her own way. I felt uniquely well-positioned to investigate this overlap between the collections of the Mattress Factory and the Andy Warhol Museum; and for me there was never a dull moment.

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