David LaChapelle on Taking the Last Portrait of Andy Warhol
Taken under the wing of Andy Warhol after a chance encounter, a pre-fame David LaChapelle landed a position at Interview Magazine, where he would work on every issue until Warhol’s death in 1987. It was the very dawn of LaChapelle and the twilight for Warhol—one that ended in tragedy for the latter (rumored to have never fully recovered from his attempted assassination in ’68). This week, in our celebration of all things Warhol, Artsy spoke with LaChapelle on his experience taking the last ever photograph of the legendary artist. His thoughtful, poignant recollection of the Last Sitting follows:
“I shot the picture in Andy’s office. I placed two Bibles on either side to frame the photo. On Sundays, he would be walked to church by my friend Wilfredo [the fashion editor of Interview] who worked for Benjamin Liu [also a friend of Andy]. Andy went to church pretty much every Sunday. He was in New York since he had been shot. This was also around the time he was painting the “Last Supper” series. I remember this so clearly because those paintings were huge and magnificent. They had great impact on me; it was one of the few times I ever got to see Andy actually painting with brush in hand. Andy’s dear friend and mine, Paige Powell, set up the shoot and photographed me photographing Andy. She photographed Andy photographing everything. It was funny because the two of them were always taking pictures; she has many pictures of Andy taking pictures. This is before everyone began documenting everything with their telephone cameras. Of course, no one knew it was to be Andy’s last portrait, although Wilfredo told me Andy kept talking about not coming out of the hospital, but [he was being admitted for] a minor thing, a complication I suppose from the assassination attempt in ’68. But apparently he really was insistent that he was not going to come back from the hospital. And sure enough, he died there from a mistake the hospital made. It’s true artists are very intuitive about these kinds of things, especially I think their own deaths.”
Andy Warhol: Last Sitting, November 22 © David LaChapelle, courtesy of the artist.