“I would take pictures of Andy’s scars and then go down to Union Square and sell them for five dollars, and then I would go back upstairs and take some more” – Brigid Berlin (September 6, 1939 – July 17, 2020)
Brigid Berlin was Andy Warhol’s best friend and one of the most prominent and colorful members of his Factory in the 1960s and 1970s. Her legendary personal collection of Polaroids are an intimate, beautiful, artistic, outrageous insight into this iconic period.
After several years as a reluctant debutante and a failed marriage, Brigid Berlin met Andy Warhol in 1964 and quickly became a central member of his entourage. After moving to Hotel Chelsea, she took on the nickname Brigid Polk because of her habit of giving out ‘pokes’, injections of Vitamin B and amphetamines. These injections were readily available through the many ‘Doctor Feelgoods’ in New York and perfectly legal.
Berlin appeared in several of Warhol’s films, including Chelsea Girls (1966), in which she is seen injecting herself while performing a monologue, and Ciao! Manhattan (1972), which starred Edie Sedgwick.
She was known for her obsessive taping and photographing of everyday life. Selections from these tapes were later compiled by Anthony Ingrassia to form the play Andy Warhol’s Pork. Other tapes made by her were the basis for Live at Max’s Kansas City (recorded 1970, released 1972), The Velvet Underground’s first live album.
Berlin was complicit in one of Warhol’s more infamous pranks when, in 1969, Warhol announced that all of his paintings were the work of Berlin. Brigid enthusiastically followed this line when interviewed by Time. The prank led to a drop in the value of Warhol’s work, and both parties eventually retracted their statements. The question of authorship looms large in valuing Warhol’s paintings to this day.
In 1975, Berlin began work as a permanent employee for Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine, a position that she held until well after Warhol’s death. Berlin transcribed interviews as well as knitted under the desk. Patricia Hearst (a close friend of Berlin who began work at Interview in 1988) observed “On my first day at work, I noticed two small pugs who seemed to have the run of the castle. They belonged to a woman who sat behind the front desk every day from 9:00 to 5:00, but who never seemed to answer the phone. Instead, she compulsively knitted, ate bags of candy and tended lovingly to the dogs.”