Andy Warhol had a thing for jewels. He famously said he thought “it would be very glamorous to be reincarnated as a big ring on Pauline de Rothschild’s finger.” And as fashion designer Carolina Herrera recounted to Christie’s recently, she once scored a portrait from Andy in exchange for her gold-mesh-and-diamond-encrusted Van Cleef & Arpels clutch. Jewelry designer Wendy Brandes barely missed her one chance to meet Andy in person; but, like Andy, the designer has a knack for marrying the chic and ironic in profoundly beautiful ways (look no further than her silver and ruby “Mudflap Jill” necklace). Ahead of Christie’s gay pride-themed online sale of Andy’s drawings and photos, Brandes dishes here about queens, bling and Diet Coke. Because, really, what else is there?
What was your first Warholian moment, and when did you first encounter him?
I can’t remember my first, but I remember my worst. On Feb. 17, 1987, when I was a student at Columbia University, a friend invited me to see a fashion show for designer Kohshin Satoh at a club called the Tunnel. Warhol was one of the celebrity models. I don’t know why I said no. Maybe it was too cold to go all the way downtown? Andy toughed it out even though he was sick. A couple of days later, he went to the hospital for gallbladder surgery and he died after the surgery on Feb. 22, 1987. I missed my one and only chance to see him in the flesh.
What or who would be Andy’s muse if he were alive today?
Snooki from Jersey Shore.
What are your latest cultural obsessions?
On TV, Spartacus and Game of Thrones. Andy would have loved Spartacus. All those well-built, naked men.
What would you consider Warhol’s most memorable quote or anthem?
We all know the most memorable one: “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” I’m bored with that. Andy was too. He said: “I’m bored with that line. I never use it anymore. My new line is, ‘In 15 minutes, everybody will be famous.'” I like that he recognized the original 15-minutes line had had its 15 minutes.
And if you want something that is actually useful for your life, remember: “They always say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”
If you could collaborate with Andy on a project, what would it be?
We’d cover one of his paintings in diamonds. We’d do it on the cheap, just stick ’em on with Elmer’s Glue. Then, after showing the work, we’d pick all the diamonds off and keep them for ourselves. Why waste all those diamonds on a painting permanently?
Dream dinner-party: You, Warhol, and…?
Queen Elizabeth II. He once said, “I want to be as famous as the Queen of England.” He did screenprints of her for a series called “Reigning Queens” in 1985; her portrait was based on a 1975 photograph. The “Royal Edition” of the series was sprinkled with “diamond dust,” but that was just sparkly crushed glass. See? He wouldn’t waste real diamonds on screenprints even for the queen.
Imagine Warhol had a Twitter account. What kind of thing might he say in 140 characters or less?
Now that everyone thinks he is famous, no one is famous.
Whose portrait would Andy most want to do now?
Soup can or coke bottle?
Diet Coke can!
Drag every day or only on special occasions?
Anytime I have to socialize with people, I feel like I’m in costume. So every day, of course.
See and bid on Christie’s gay pride-themed collection of Warhol’s drawings and photographs, “For Members Only: Eyes on the Guise,” on sale in an exclusive online auction, June 13-27.