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Jeremy Deller from Printed Pages Winter 2014

Work / Printed Pages

Jeremy Deller artfully avoids Andy Warhol story in the new Printed Pages

I don’t get nervous doing interviews very often, but Jeremy Deller was a sweaty-palm-inducing exception. Not only is he one of the UK’s leading artists and someone we’ve targeted for the magazine for years, he’s also one of my personal artistic heroes.

He was on the press circuit to help promote his new show at Modern Art Oxford which compares and contrasts the careers of William Morris and Andy Warhol, drawing convincing parallels between the two men. Jeremy met the latter in London back in the 1980s and then went to spend time at The Factory in New York. Like most journalists who spoke to him ahead of the show I was desperate to find out more about this connection, but found him reticent to go into too much detail. The interview also touched on Bowie, Desert Island Discs and visiting his own shows anonymously – you can read the full article in the new issue of Printed Pages…

“I kept it to myself for a long time. I did go public in about 2008 when I mentioned it in an interview; before then I didn’t want to be known as the person who did that.”

Jeremy Deller is talking about why he doesn’t like talking about Andy Warhol, or rather why he doesn’t like talking about meeting and spending time with the iconic artist. The story goes like this: at the end of his first year as an art history student at London’s Courtauld Institute, Jeremy met Warhol at a book signing and was invited to drop by and visit his suite at the Ritz. When he turned up with a friend, he found Warhol and his retinue watching The Benny Hill Show with the sound down, and Roxy Music’s Greatest Hits blaring out from the stereo.

Warhol then suggested that the young artist come out and visit him at The Factory in New York. “We were invited but in that casual way; he didn’t expect us to turn up. Out in New York there was just a lot of hanging around. They were making a TV show for MTV and I was going to be on it with a friend. We were filmed but it never aired because he died and the programme was cancelled. Somewhere there is footage of us being interviewed and mucking about.

“It’s quite a private thing and I didn’t want to trade on it, so I’m quite wary about talking about. It meant a lot to me, it meant nothing to him.

“His star was definitely on the wane; he wasn’t at the best point in his career but that didn’t really concern me then. I wasn’t interested in his career, I was interested in who he was and what he’d done and what he symbolised, the mythology of it. It just looked like he was having a really good time and he was doing what he wanted. I was interested in how you made a career out of doing that.”

There’s a couple of reasons why I am forcing Jeremy to go through this story again. For one it’s a terrific tale and I am fascinated by this trip (a fascination only cranked up by his reticence to divulge much more). But secondly Jeremy is about to curate an exhibition at Modern Art Oxford focused on William Morris and Andy Warhol, bringing together rarely seen works and comparing and contrasting the two men’s careers. It’s no great surprise that people want to bombard him about Warhol, particularly now it is out in the open and was featured on the 2011 hour-long BBC documentary Middle Class Hero.

“I did an interview for EasyJet Magazine – something I really wanted to do because I thought lots of people are going to see this and it’s good for the show – but by the sounds of it, it’s a really terrible interview. Weirdly all they wanted to know about was Andy Warhol, going on and on with all these stupid questions…”

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Jeremy Deller from Printed Pages Winter 2014

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Jeremy Deller: Joy In People (photography by Linda Nylind)

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Jeremy Deller: Joy In People (photography by Linda Nylind)

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Jeremy Deller: Joy In People (photography by Linda Nylind)

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Printed Pages Winter 2014