A Beautiful Bouquet of Rebelliousness: Ten Things You Need To Know About Artist and Former Andy Warhol Superstar Brigid Berlin

Brigid Berlin Untitled (Self-Portrait Double Exposure), ca. 1971-1973

Brigid Berlin is an American legend. Deranged and beautiful, her life is a head on collision between high society decadence, urine soaked carpet fibers and methamphetamine filled veins, forming a beautiful bouquet of rebelliousness. On view now at Invisible Exports, an exhibition explores the life and ephemera of this strange specimen, from her polaroid’s of Andy Warhol’s factory and the New York avant garde to her obsessive audio recordings to her wonderful tit paintings that make for fine framed prints on any discernable gentleman or gentlewoman’s desk. Just who is Brigid Berlin? – She is a rebel in the purest form. She is an artist and a documentarian. She was once a part of Andy Warhol’s circle and entourage. Today, Berlin is alive and well and, no doubt, as weird as ever. Here are ten things you need to know about Brigid Berlin.

1. Her Parents Were Socialites and She Grew Up In A World Of Manhattan Privilege

Polaroid of Gerard Malanga and Brigid Berlin by Andy Warhol

Her mother was Muriel Johnson "Honey" Berlin – on her deathbed she was still ordering outfits from Saks. Her father was Richard E. Berlin – chairman of the Hearst Media empire for 32 years. Sometimes she would pick up the phone and Richard Nixon would be on the line. On one occasion, Lyndon B. Johnson accompanied the young Berlin to a rehab in Mexico. 


2. She Rebelled Against High Society By Over Eating

Brigid Berlin Untitled (Self-Portrait Double Exposure with Refrigerator), ca. 1971-1973

Her mother tried to give her a dollar for every pound she lost. Honey Berlin would also take her young daughter to get shots of amphetamines and dexedrine from various doctors around New York city to speed up her metabolism. Brigid was also sent to a school in Switzerland to lose weight, but she would steal other girls’ money and go on pastry binges. 

 

3. Brigid Meets Andy Warhol and Becomes A Central Figure of His Entourage

In 1964, curator Henry Geldzahler tok Brigid to meet Andy Warhol at his silver factory. Berlin would wind up collaborating with Warhol on multiple projects. She starred in Andy’s films Chelsea Girls and Ciao! Manhattan. Brigid also worked at the front desk of the factory well into the 80s taking phone calls and transcribing interviews for Interview Magazine. 

3. Brigid Berlin Becomes Brigid Poke After Giving Out Doses of Meth and B12

Gerard Malanga & Brigid Polk - 1969

Around the time that Berlin met Warhol, she was living in various rooms of the Chelsea Hotel. It is there that she earned the name Brigid Poke because of her habit of doling out “pokes,” which are simply injections of B12 and methamphetamine. In the quasi documentary film Ciao! Manhattan, directed by Warhol, Berlin can be seen shooting up whilst giving an interview. 

4. Brigid Found A Blank Diary Notebook and Turned It Into The "Cock Book"

Berlin’s “cock book” is one of the most famous pieces of ephemera from the sixties. After finding a blank notebook, she would go around to places like Max’s Kansas City and Andy Warhol’s factory and had some of the most famous artists and figures of the time draw phalluses. Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Peter Beard, Basquiat, Leonard Cohen and more contributed. Artist Richard Prince bought the cock book at auction for $175, 000. 

5. Andy Warhol Once Told Everyone That His Works Were Actually Made By Brigid

In one of Andy Warhol’s famous practical jokes, he tells Time magazine in an interview that his paintings were actually made by Brigid. People took it very seriously and the value of Warhol’s work decreased significantly. Both Warhol and Brigid were forced to retract their statements. 

7. She Would Obsessively Document Her Life and The People In It

From the sound of her own peeing in hotel rooms to polaroid portraits of some of the biggest names in art and the social scene, Berlin would capture everything. She also used reams of tape to record audio from the goings on inside Warhol’s factory. Some of those recordings were used in the Velvet Underground’s album Live At Max’s Kansas City. 

8. Brigid Became Known For Her Tit Paintings

Untitled (Self-Portrait as Mermaid), ca. 1971-1973

While Andy Warhol was using silkscreens to interpret pop culture, Berlin was dipping her breasts into ink and paint, and then transferring them to canvas and paper to create a unique series of “tit paintings.” Many of these tit paintings can be seen at Invisible Exports as part of the exhibition, It’s All About Me

9. Needlepoint Became A Medium That Brigid Would Use Later In Life

Installation view Glenn Horowitz Bookseller

Taken from the salacious and trashy covers of the NY Post and Daily News, with headlines like “I Snorted My Dad” and “Bad Heir Day,” Berlin would create amazing needlepoint pillows. They were the kind of thing you’d find in cheap craft shops and are typical of the time passing handiwork that members of the upper crust turn to during the twilight years. Ten years worth of Berlin’s needlework pillows were shown last year at Glenn Horowitz Bookseller.   

10. You Will Soon Be Able to Purchase A Book of Her Polaroids

Untitled (Self-Portrait with Eyes), ca. 1971-1973

Currently available for preorder, Brigid Berlin Polaroids captures a large selection of her personal collection of Polaroids for the very time. From the introduction by director John Waters, “Brigid was always my favorite underground movie star; big, often naked, and ornery as hell...The Polaroids here show just how wide Brigid's world was; her access was amazing. She was never a groupie, always an insider."


Brigid Berlin "It's All About Me," curated by Anastasia Rygle, will be on view until November 15, 2015 at Invisible Exports, 89 Eldridge Street, New York, NY. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE




Beautiful Vagabond: 10 Things You Need To Know About the Late Edwige Belmore

Edwige Belmore, “the queen of punk” has died at the age of 58 in Miami. A great many things can be said of Edwige Belmore and yet it seems that the complexity of her journey through life remains all too mysterious. What we do know is that she personally touched the lives of some of the greatest cultural influencers of the 20th century, from Helmut Newton to Andy Warhol. Indeed, her life was a long, beautiful rags to riches, to rags to riches, and back to rags again, tale of heartbreak and obscurity. Starting with her abandonment by her parents to her discovery by the world of high fashion and art, and to the end of her life, where she was the resident artist and landscaper at the Vagabond Hotel in Miami – her LinkedIn account lists “landscaping hobo” and “palm tree studies” as her duties. There is certainly no way to encapsulate all of the moments of her life in a meager list of 10, but I’ve attempted to all the same. You will have to do your own research to learn about her sojourn to Japan and the years that she spent in a Hindu ashram in India - and you'll find a great deal of information elsewhere about her years as tastemaker to the Starck Club - but for now, you’ll have to make do with these 10 things you should know about Edwige Belmore. 

1.   “Edwige Will Die, and Edwige Will Be Born”

Abandoned by her parents and raised in a convent in Paris, Edwige Belmore came into her formative years with an unstoppable determination to forge her own path. The year was 1976, Edwige was 19 years old, and she saw the Sex Pistols perform live for the very first time. Mind blown and loins aroused, she was changed completely. She told everyone that on November 6, 1979, “Edwige will die, and Edwige will be born.” Her friends assumed she was planning her suicide, and in many ways she was. She burned all of her clothes, and bought one outfit that was definitively hers. “I had completely this amazon look – Riding pants, high heels, white shirt with a skinny tie, with a big old beaten leather jacket that’s so cool, shaved head…I was some kind of alien, amazon, dominatrix or something.”

2. Edwige is dubbed the “Queen of Punk”

Springing into the Parisian punk circuit like an androgynous bat out of hell, Edwige was approached by two girls in a club who asked if she would play drums in their band. Having never played a musical instrument, she accepted, and their band, L.U.V. (for Ladies United Violently, or Lipsticks Used Viciously) was born. As the punk movement started to gain recognition in the media, she was asked to do interviews for Vogue, Elle, Nouvel Observateur and the like. Within no time she became the leader of a movement and crowned the “Queen of Punk.”

3. A Foray into Modeling

Due to the perpetual stream of press, her notoriety begins to grow and Edwige is quickly shepherded into the inner circles of Haute Couture. Catching the eye of Helmut Newton at a party chez Paloma Picasso, she is followed by him incessantly throughout the night begging to take her picture. Having never modeled she finds herself making history with not only Helmut Newton, but the likes of Pierre et Gilles, Maripol, Andy Warhol, and many more.

4. Cover of Façade Magazine with Andy Warhol

As a symbol of counter-culture, establishment-fucking fracas, as well as muse to the fulcrums of the art and fashion worlds, Edwige was the perfect companion to Andy Warhol for the cover of Façade Magazine. It was an underground, paper magazine that sought intriguing binaries to juxtapose on their covers, and this one would go down in art publication history with the headline: Pope of Pop Meets the Queen of Punk.

5. Walks the runway for Jean-Paul Gaultier and Thierry Mugler

Edwige never called herself a model, and never wanted anybody else to, which is why asking her to model had to be approached delicately. “Jean-Paul Gaultier came to me and said, ‘You look amazing. Do you want to be in my show?’… he was like do you want to be in my SHOW which is whole different meaning.” Gaultier was curating looks from the street (a practice unheard of at the time), and putting street kids on the runway. Edwige and the rest drank champagne and got high throughout an entire runway show, and she still managed to finish the show in a pair of ridiculously high heels singing Sid Vicious’s version of “My Way.”

6. Ushered in by Andy Warhol, Edwige goes to NYC and is introduced to Studio 54

Having taken all of Paris by storm within the span of a single year, Warhol thought it was time to introduce Edwige to the elite influencers of New York – or rather, he took it upon himself to introduce New York to the Queen of Punk. Approaching the illustrious nightclub of all nightclubs, swaths of partiers parted like the red sea as she entered the club for her very first time, arm-in-arm with her regal rebel counterpart. She was suddenly just another member of the elite New York underground, with contemporaries such as Maripol, Keith Haring, Debbie Harry, Kenny Scharf and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

7. Edwige returns to Paris and becomes ambiance creator, aka “doorman” to Le Palace in Paris

Upon her return to Paris, Edwige was approached by ‘The Prince of the Night,’ Fabrice Emaer, and asked if she would work the door at his new nightclub, Le Palace. It was the Studio 54 of Paris, and who better to curate the cool crowd each night than the Queen herself? She was a 20-year-old Amazonian punk chick with 6 bodyguards facing hoards of anxious scenesters and claims that she would look them in the eyes and feel immediately whether or not they were right for that evening’s ambiance. She once refused the King of Sweden because “obviously, he must have been an asshole.” Oh yeah and she married her friend Jean Louis Jorge, a Dominican filmmaker 15 years her senior because in the age of free love it was the most punk thing to do – at least in her circles. Her wedding dress was a mock Chanel gown made from white terri cloth towels by a friend who worked for Chanel.

8. Music and Film

From 1978-1988 Edwige acted in 7 different short and feature-length films, her first of which was a role in Jean Marie Perier's 1978 film, "Sale rêveur" with Lea Massari and Jacques Dutronc. She also played herself in the 2011 feature film Des Jeunes Gens Mödernes or Kids of Today, as well as The Starck Club, a documentary about the famed Dallas nightclub to be released in 2016. In 1979, Claude Arto introduced Edwige to the exhilarating sounds of the synthesizer and they started their Parisian Cold Wave band (referred to as New Wave by the Anglophones), Mathémathiques Modernes. Throughout the 80s she traveled back and forth between Paris and New York singing and playing sax with her lesser-known band, Jungle Geisha.

9. Edwige becomes ‘Maitresse de Maison’ at Agnès B., New York

Edwige met Agnès back in 1976 when she opened her very first store in Paris. Years later when she would open the very first gallery/boutique in New York City, she asked Edwige to be the lady of the house. It was her job to fuse the worlds of fine art and fashion so that the crowd would flow seamlessly from one side to the other without any sense of awkwardness or separation. Agnès took an enormous photograph of Edwige (taken by Pierre et Gilles) that she had bought years prior and placed it behind the cash register – she placed a much smaller photo of herself below it to the right.

10. Edwige Takes on Photography

In the last years of her life, Edwige created a photographic series called The I Within Your Imagination, which she presented in a group show called 7 Deadly Sins, as well as on her personal tumblr page. The series comprised 500 photographs taken of the same mysterious object at various different angles with varying sources of light. The effect seems a perfect representation of who she was to the myriad worlds in which she interacted. Having absolutely no training as a model, actress, singer, musician, or any of her other assorted professions, she seamlessly assumed those roles without any hesitation or fear of failure – she just did and was everything that was asked of her.


Edwige never did finish the coffee table book that she and Maripol had hoped to publish, which would encompass photographs from the 75 artists and photographers who called her their muse. There are undoubtedly countless stunning photographs held in private collections that the world is missing out on, and we can only hope that these lost treasures will surface in the coming years. Text by Summer Bowie. Follow Autre on instagram to stay up to date: @AUTREMAGAZINE