Calvin Klein and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Collaboration 2017- 2020 

Art/Fashion collaborations are nothing new to Calvin Klein, Raf Simons or The Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and in 2017 a four year partnership between them began. Simons, a Belgian designer who has his own clothing label and also takes on the role of creative director for other companies, was the chief creative officer of Calvin Klein and was allowed to use any of Andy Warhol’s work for his designs. Even pieces that had never been published before. I’m sure most know, but Andy Warhol was an American artist who helped lead the pop art movement. He explored culture, artistic expression and advertising and used different mediums to do so.

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A piece from a Calvin Klein Jeans collection, which incorporated Andy Warhol self portraits (L) Self-Portrait No. 9, 1986 By Andy Warhol (R)

This collaboration wasn’t the first time Simons worked with the Warhol Foundation. He had partnered with them while he was a creative director at Christian Dior but access to Warhol’s work had never been given like this before. Simons pretty much had free rein on how he could use the art and in return for this great opportunity, Calvin Klein gave money to The Warhol Foundation’s endowment. It gives grants to “support the creation, presentation and documentation of contemporary visual art, particularly work that is experimental, under-recognized, or challenging in nature” – The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

The foundation has helped so many people that it is recognized as one of the top funders of contemporary art. It also helps protect rights of artists and was founded in 1987. The same year that Andy Warhol passed away. The foundation was created in accordance with his will, which stated that he wanted a foundation to be dedicated to the “advancement of the visual arts.” Beyond the grants, it does even more great things. With the money Calvin Klein gave, 102 canvases that make up Shadows, 1978- 79 By Andy Warhol were restored.

Shadows, 1978-79 By Andy Warhol 

Forty-eight of the canvases were then displayed at the Calvin Klein headquarters. This being just one of the many times Warhol and Calvin Klein came together during the partnership. It was the first time since 1998 that the canvases were exhibited in New York City. The same city they were created in and first shown. Click here for a short video about Shadows and a bit about their conservation process.

The Shadows exhibition wasn’t the first time Calvin Klein and Warhol came together. Before the partnership was announced in November of 2017, we got a hint of it in Simons’ first ad campaign with Calvin Klein. It used different artists work and had some Warhol injected into it. The campaign was partially photographed at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh and included the Warhol works titled Elvis 11 Times (Studio Type), 1963; Statue of Liberty, 1962; Ambulance Disaster, 1963–64; and Skull, 1976.

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Part of Simons’ first ad campaign for Calvin Klein, which incorporated Skull, 1976 By Andy Warhol

The ad campaign was launched just days before the Calvin Klein 205W39NYC Spring 2018 show, which took place during September of 2017 (Calvin Klein 205W39NYC being the new name that Simons gave to his runway collections. The address of Calvin Klein’s headquarters is what was added).

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A look from Calvin Klein 205W39NYC’s Spring 2018 show (L) Five Deaths, 1963 By Andy Warhol (R)

Having art by Warhol used as screen prints, the collection also hinted at the partnership. Photographs taken between 1963 and 1982 were included and Dennis Hopper and Sandra Brant found themselves on tank tops amongst other things.

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A look from Calvin Klein 205W39NYC’s Spring 2018 show (L) Sandy Brant, 1970 By Andy Warhol (R)

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A look from Calvin Klein 205W39NYC’s Spring 2018 show (L) Dennis Hopper, 1970 By Andy Warhol (R)

Pieces from Warhol’s Death and Disaster series were also seen, including Five Deaths On Turquoise, Tunafish Disaster, Ambulance Disaster, Knives and Electric Chair. The entire collection was inspired by cinema and Hollywood and depicted the American dream but also an American nightmare. Just as Warhol depicted both good and bad parts of America in his work.

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A look from Calvin Klein 205W39NYC’s Spring 2018 show (L) Little Electric Chair, 1965 By Andy Warhol (R)

A range of Warhol’s art was used during the partnership across Calvin Klein’s different lines. Calvin Klein Jeans did a capsule collection that incorporated Warhol self portraits. They were screen printed onto pieces seen in the collection and were originally screen printed on canvas.

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A piece from Calvin Klein Jeans’ collection, which incorporated Andy Warhol self portraits (L) Self-Portrait, 1978 By Andy Warhol (R) 

The portraits were from different times in Warhol’s life and of course he created some “selfies” before they were popular. He was very cutting edge but works he did were also simple. For example, photographs he took in Colorado.

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Birch Trees in Aspen, 1979 By Andy Warhol 

Warhol said, “land really is the best art” and Calvin Klein Jeans did another capsule collection incorporating some of these photos. It was titled “Landscapes,” and included black and white photographs Warhol took while in Aspen.

Two pieces from the Calvin Klein jeans collection “Landscapes” 

Wearable pieces were not the only things created with the Warhol Foundation. Blankets, throw pillows, and fiesta dinnerware were also made.

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Fiesta dinnerware set, blanket and pillow from the Calvin Klein x Andy Warhol collaboration  

Warhol was a fan of fiesta dinnerware and used it daily. Part of his collection is now at the Andy Warhol Museum of Art in Pittsburgh and the dinnerware pieces that Calvin Klein made incorporated Dennis Hopper and Sandra Brant. They were both seen throughout the partnership and were part of Warhol’s life. Brant worked with him on the film L’Amour and on different art publishing projects. Also, her and her husband had a publishing company, which bought Interview Magazine after Warhol died. Interview Magazine was started by Warhol in 1969.

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The first issue of Interview to be published

Dennis Hopper was connected to Warhol not only as a friend, but he owned a Mao screenprint that he shot two bullets through. Warhol was shown what some would have called damage and made the best of it. He decided to collaborate with Hopper, marking one of the holes as a warning shot and the other as a bullet hole. The piece later sold for more than ten times its high estimate, becoming one of Warhol’s many highly sought after pieces.

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The Mao screenprint that Dennis Hopper shot two bullets through  

If Simons could own any of Warhol’s art he said he would most like to possess “any car crash or disaster or electric chair.” All of which are part of Warhol’s Death and Disaster series.

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Tunafish Disaster, 1963 By Andy Warhol (L) Car Crash, 1978 By Andy Warhol (R) 

The series came about thanks to Henry Geldzahler. A curator and friend of Warhol who suggested he create deeper art after his famous Campbell’s Soup cans.

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Campbell’s Soup Can – Tomato, 1968 By Andy Warhol (L) Campbell’s Soup Cans, 1962 By Andy Warhol (R) 

Talking about his favorite pieces Simons said, “When you say you adore that body of work, it seems like you are someone who adores violence and horror. With Warhol, I am more attracted to the work that doesn’t deal with famous people, because my world is already dealing so much with famous people.”

Simons isn’t impressed by fame but he is captivated by art. He’s passionate about it and has said, “Of the top three or five things that are important to me, outside of family and love, art is number one.”

He went as far as saying, “It’s way more important than fashion. Sometimes I think it would be very attractive to be able to bring ideas out and not have to think about them in relation to a system or structure or commerce.” Hearing this, Simons may not be in fashion forever. He did go to school for industrial design and has said “I keep thinking of things I would like to do that are not fashion. Making movies, making art — the practice of making something. In fashion, the actual practice of being a designer has changed so much.” As of now Simons is an art collector and we’re glad a designer as well because we got the Warhol Collaboration.

Simons first discovered Warhol from t-shirts and skateboards and undoubtedly learned more about the artist while partnering with the Warhol Foundation. He said, “I’ve come to realize that Warhol’s genius goes much deeper than cheerful Campbell’s Soup paintings, he captured all sides of the American experience, including sometimes its darker sides. Warhol’s art tells more truths about this country than you can find almost anywhere else.” Like with the Death and Disaster series, which was incorporated into the Calvin Klein 205W39NYC Fall 2018 show.

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Calvin Klein 205W39NYC’s Fall 2018 show

The venue had Warhol photographs on barn facades. They were around the catwalk, which was covered with 50,000 gallons of popcorn. During the show, models carried bags of popcorn as well as bags with Warhol’s work on them.

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A look from Calvin Klein 205W39NYC’s Fall 2018 show 

2018 also had Calvin Klein’s New York City flagship store join in on the Warhol fun. This time in the form of silver balloons. Just like Warhol’s installation Silver Clouds, 1966.

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Andy Warhol with Silver Clouds, 1966 at Leo Castelli Gallery in New York City 

During the month of February balloons, which had Warhol’s work printed on them, surrounded shoppers at the Madison Avenue store.

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Calvin Klein’s version of Silver Clouds at their Madison Avenue store

Silver Clouds, 1966 was done as Warhol’s farewell to painting. He said the only way to say goodbye to the medium was to create a painting that floats. Silver Clouds was done and it consisted of 15 balloons. The version at the flagship store had many more than that but paid tribute to the former installation nonetheless.

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Calvin Klein’s version of Silver Clouds at their Madison Avenue store

Simons also paid tribute to Warhol’s 1963 film titled Kiss. The film broke ground and had couples kissing for nearly four minutes at a time. It challenged Hollywood’s laws, which had a time limit for kissing scenes, and included 12 couples of varying gender, race, and sexual orientation. A departure from the straight white couples that were the norm. The film was created to show diverse authentic relationships and promoted acceptance.

Warhol’s work always struck Simons as courageous. He said that even though it was not “meant to conform to the expected, it still managed to be successful and commercial.” He acknowledges Warhol’s work as being “undeniably [a] changing force in contemporary art.” Kiss is a great example of this and two stills from it were used on underwear, tees and tank tops.

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Two pieces from Calvin Klein’s collection, which incorporated stills from Andy Warhol’s 1963 film Kiss

Tees, underwear, and tank tops showed off Warhol’s work again in another collection titled Andy Warhol: Exposures, ’77-’85. Four images that were shot in New York City between 1977 and 1985 were used and this time Andy Warhol’s name was included on the famous Calvin Klein underwear and bra bands.

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Two pieces from the Calvin Klein collection titled Andy Warhol: Exposures, ’77-’85

Besides these two collections, other underwear pieces were made as well. Scarves and swimwear were also created. A pop up store was done, Warhol flower paintings were put onto denim jeans and jackets and that’s not all. It’s safe to say a plethora of products were created for both men and women.

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A Calvin Klein x Andy warhol scarf (L) Cowboy Boots, 1978 By Andy Warhol (R)

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Calvin Klein x Andy Warhol jeans (L) 16 Flowers, 1964 By Andy Warhol (R)

Andy Warhol and Calvin Klein, the two entities that brought these products to life, both have roots in New York City. It’s where Warhol had all three of his successive studios, each known as “The Factory,” and where Calvin Klein was founded and is still based today. With two prominent creatives in NYC, it makes sense that they ended up hanging out in the same circle of people. Warhol was very much a part of the fashion world and both were regulars at Studio 54.

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Andy Warhol, Calvin Klein, Brooke Shields and Steve Rubell at Studio 54 in 1981

I bet they would approve of their creations coming together so many years later. They both captured a new American essence in their work and are Americana by nature.

Simons said, “I liked the idea of connecting an American major brand to an American major artist, whose body of work spoke about things very relevant to Calvin Klein. He also said, “Andy Warhol stood in the middle of the contemporary environment. In his approach, his vision, his obsession with superstars and famous people, his sense of commercial product, he was very democratic. Calvin is very democratic.” They are a great duo that Simons did an exceptional job of bringing together.

P.S. In 1956 the Museum of Modern Art was gifted a drawing by Andy Warhol titled Shoe. They kindly declined the gift, sending him a letter with a P.S. that said the piece could be picked up from the museum at his convenience. You could say that was a bad decision. You’re not the only one making mistakes and rejection is something that even Andy Warhol received. Keep pursuing your passions : )

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A reproduction of the letter Andy Warhol received from the MOMA (out of the book Andy Warhol Giant Size)