Jeffrey Deitch on seven Richard Bernstein portraits that canonized New York City’s high life

Published October 10, 2018

 

For 16 years, the artist Richard Bernstein served as a surrogate for the very particular vision of Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine. The 189 covers that he illustrated created a visual language for the heady blur of New York City’s high life from 1972 through 1988, when Warhol, Bob Colacello, and their hybrid social set of downtown artists and uptown elites would troop to the city’s dining rooms to record their legendary conversations. The casual intimacy of those rendezvous found their visual twin in Bernstein’s elaborate portraits—collages of cut-out lettering, glitter, pencil, white-out, and, of course, lipstick, the material behind Interview’s script logo.

Until now, Bernstein’s covers have never been exhibited in one room. Mostly salvaged from his apartment in the Chelsea Hotel, 69 of Bernstein’s Interview covers are now on display at New York City’s Jeffrey Deitch Gallery through the end of the month. We asked gallery owner Jeffrey Deitch to offer his thoughts on a selection of his favorite covers, arranged in chronological order in the gallery’s main space. “You look at Bernstein’s images,” Deitch said as we made the rounds, “And you see that these are images that defined a time.”

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Photo courtesy of The Estate of Richard Bernstein

Marisa Berenson, 1976 

“Marisa Berenson was on the first of Interview’s tabloid covers. It’s a master work of Bernstein’s graphic style. All of his elements combined here define that ‘pop’ style—photography, silk screen, airbrush, collage.”

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Photo courtesy of The Estate of Richard Bernstein

Shelley Duvall, 1975

“When you really look at this art, the reason it’s so great is none of it is generic. He gets people. Sometimes Andy would commission portraits of socialites where he didn’t know who the hell they were, and Bob Colacello would just bring someone in like they’re interchangeable. But when you look at Andy’s portraits of people he knew, they’re incredible. And so, with most of these covers and all of these people, it’s obvious that Richard knew them.”

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Photo courtesy of The Estate of Richard Bernstein

Vitas Gurlatis, 1979

“He was a great, great tennis player. And known for being interested in fashion and style. But he died tragically while sleeping in somebody’s guest house. Carbon monoxide poisoning, I think. It was a real tragedy.”

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Photo courtesy of The Estate of Richard Bernstein

Photo courtesy of The Estate of Richard Bernstein

 

Peter Beard and Isabella Rossellini, 1978

“These people are what Interview was about, why it was so brilliant in that time. Okay? All these people would come to lunch. Andy would do an interview and Bob would do an interview, and maybe, Richard would be there. So, they were in the circle. The tigerprint is brilliant. And this is such an incredible likeness of Isabella.”

 

 

 

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Photo courtesy of The Estate of Richard Bernstein

Steve Rubell, 1979

“This is idealized. Steve didn’t really look like that – he looked like a Jewish kid from Long Island – but that’s how he wanted to look. This is his fantasy of what he wanted to look like, and because Richard knew him well, he was able to fulfill that.”

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Photo courtesy of The Estate of Richard Bernstein

Mariel Hemingway, 1978

“Mariel was also very much around. I would see her around as well. We had dinner a few times on the Upper East Side. She was married to a real estate businessman, so she was part of New York at that time.”

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Photo courtesy of The Estate of Richard Bernstein

C.Z. Guest, 1975

“You don’t know C.Z. Guest? She was in so many of the magazine’s interviews. She was a socialite married to an heir of the Carnegie Steel fortune. Her husband was this famous horseman Winston Guest, and her daughter was the debutante of the year, Cornelia Guest. She was very much part of the royal circle. Richard understood this is like the WASP icon, very unlike a Hollywood figure. The pearl in this one is terrific. He was a very great artist. He was sensitive to the subject.”