Andy Warhol’s Thirteen Most Beautiful Boys

Between 1964 and 1966, Andy Warhol made 472 ‘living portraits’ or ‘screen tests’, mostly of visitors to his New York studio, the Factory. Subjects with the necessary star power were positioned in front of a static 16mm Bolex movie camera and told not to blink. Warhol would often turn on the camera and walk away—returning when the roll of film ran out, after about three minutes. The screen tests were then projected in hypnotic slow-motion at the old-Hollywood silent-movie frame rate.  

Shot in 1964, these are the first twelve screen tests Warhol made. They also belong to the first compilation of individual screen tests he assembled. The Thirteen Most Beautiful Boys started as a parody of an NYPD ‘Thirteen Most Wanted’ campaign, suggesting that beauty is the most desirable of all human attributes.

Warhol eventually abandoned his Beauties project (which also included the better-known companion piece The Thirteen Most Beautiful Women) as a futile endeavour:

I could never decide who should be in it. If everybody’s not a beauty, then nobody is, so I didn’t want to imply that the kids in The Beauties were beauties but the kids in my other movies weren’t so I had to back out on the basis of the title. It was all wrong.

The films were loaned from the The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh.

This project and the exhibition Other People’s Photographs were developed for City Gallery Wellington to accompany the touring survey Cindy Sherman. There was also a film programme centred around films that have inspired Sherman’s work, and films that are impossible to watch without thinking about her work. The films included: Clown (2014, Dir. Jon Watts), Desperate Living (1977, Dir. John Waters), Eyes of Laura Mars (1978, Dir. Irvin Kershner), Grey Gardens (1975, Dir. Ellen Hovde, Albert and David Maysles), In the Cut (2003, Dir. Jane Campion), Les Yeux sans Visage (1960, Dir. Georges Franju), Office Killer (1997, Dir. Cindy Sherman), Seconds (1966, Dir. John Frankenheimer), The Fairless Vampire Killers (1967, Dir. Roman Polanski), The Naked Kiss (Dir. Samuel Fuller), The Texas Chainsaw Masscare (1974, Dir. Toby Hooper), Under the Skin (2013, Dir. Jonathan Glazer), and The Wolf Pack (2015, Dir. Crystal Moselle).

City Gallery Wellington, 19 November 2016–12 March 2017

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