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Andy Warhol's Hammer & Sickles

The idea for the Hammer and Sickle paintings originated from a trip to Italy that Andy Warhol took for the opening of his Ladies and Gentlemen paintings (aka the Drag Queen series).

Left-wing Italian journalists embraced the Ladies and Gentlemen series, "writing that Andy Warhol had exposed the cruel racism inherent in the American capitalist system, which left poor black and Hispanic boys no choice but to prostitute themselves as transvestites."

At the press conference for the Drag Queen paintings, a reporter asked Warhol if he was a Communist. Andy asked Bob Colacello who was also at the press conference if he [Warhol] was a Communist and Bob Colacello answered, "you just painted Willy Brandt's portrait, but you're trying to get Imelda Marcos."

Later at the hotel, Andy said to Bob, "Maybe I should do real Communist paintings next. They would sell a lot in Italy." (BC228)

According to Andy Warhol's painting assistant, Ronnie Cutrone, the idea for the Hammer and Sickle came from the graffiti that Andy noticed during his trip to Italy. Cutrone searched communist bookstores in New York for an image they could use, but none of the symbols were appropriate - too "flat, stenciled". So Ronnie went down to Canal Street and bought an actual hammer and sickle and photographed them with side lighting to cast a shadow. Like Andy Warhol's Skull series, the Hammer and Sickle paintings had sponge-mopped backgrounds.

Halston's boyfriend, Victor Hugo, was given the original hammer and sickle, which he had Andy sign, and placed them crisscross under a Plexiglas box. (UW63/5)

Bob Colacello:

"Andy's most successful show in 1977 was of his least obviously commercial series, the Hammer & Sickles, at the Daniel Templon Gallery in Paris... The show sold out, despite - or perhaps because of - the opening's being invaded by three hundred Parisian punks in leather, rubber, chains, and razors. Templon served raspberry sorbet and a dry Chablis. The punks used the former to scrawl 'Hate' and 'War' on the gallery walls and chugged the latter so rapidly that they were soon vomiting all over the gallery floor. Andy hid out in an inner office, and when a couple of young nihilists began peeing pink sherbet and white wine in the vicinity of her bejeweled shoes, Sao Schlumberger coolly said, 'I think I'd better get going to my dinner at Versailles'. When I told Andy, still in his hiding place, he laughed a little and then said, as if noting a new look at the couture collection, 'Pee is getting big, Bob' " (BC340)