Factory Work examines Andy Warhol's (1928-1987) role as a mentor for two younger artists from opposite corners of the art world. Jamie Wyeth (b. 1946) and Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) were young, independent artists with their own substantial reputations when Andy Warhol invited each of them to paint in his "Factory" on 860 Broadway, New York City. In 1976 Andy Warhol and Jamie Wyeth painted each other's portraits. They jointly attended openings from 1976 to 1980; the exhibitions were known informally as "The Patriarch of Pop Paints the Prince of Realism," and Warhol visited Wyeth's farm in Pennsylvania. Basquiat rented a studio on Great Jones Street from Warhol beginning in August 1983 and collaborated with Warhol (first as part of a trio including Francesco Clemente) later the same year and in 1984 began joint projects with Warhol alone and exhibited in 1985. Warhol influenced these younger artists, and they enabled him to stay connected to new audiences of an evolving art world. At the same time, Warhol's paintings demonstrably changed due to his contact with Wyeth and Basquiat.
The works illustrated provide clues toward further investigation of these two unique partnerships, also documented in Warhol's published diary entries, Interview magazines, and Warhol's tape-recorded conversations. There are four catalogue essays: Robert Rosenblum, Professor of Fine Arts at New York University and internationally known curator of 20th-century art at the Guggenheim Museum, examines Warhol as mentor for Jamie Wyeth, "a card-carrying member of a Yankee dynasty of three generations of ultra-WASP artists," as well as for Basquiat, the "dark-skinned crazy kid from Brooklyn who began his meteoric career by raucously embracing a counter-cultural life"; Christine Daulton, consultant conservator for the Warhol Museum, describes and provides recreations of the unusual techniques used by Warhol to create his oxidation portraits in the 1970s and 1980s; Joyce Hill Stoner, conservator, art historian, and Director of the University of Delaware Preservation Studies Program, writes about Wyeth's influence on Warhol that can be seen in Warhol's 1976 cat and dog paintings, his 1979 pig photographs and print, and his 1976-1977 skull paintings and self-portraits with skull; Margaret Rose Vendryes of the City University of New York discusses Basquiat's work and his "tagging" of Warhol's commercial images on their collaborative paintings and collages. The text and illustrations also offer insights into the celebrity-obsessed culture of the '70s and the drug- and money-mad art market of the '80s.