It’s fair to say that Interview magazine, founded by Andy Warhol in 1969, had some serious sway over popular culture throughout the 1970s and 80s. With its pop art-driven aesthetic and its constant pursuit of features with the superstars of the day it has grown to occupy seminal status. And this is due in no small part to Richard Bernstein, the artist behind the publication’s iconic cover imagery.
A Pratt graduate with a degree in fine arts, Richard was taken on by the Interview team in 1972. “The whole look was very intellectual" Bob Colacello, editor of the magazine for over a decade, said, "and it was all black and white. In about 1972… we wanted to make it more pop… so, Richard Bernstein was brought in.” Richard did the job beautifully; armed with pastels, paint and pencils he heavily retouched photographs taken from the likes of Albert Watson to Herb Ritts, adding colour and stature with vibrant cut-outs to monumentalise the portraits and add the final touches to what would become career-establishing interviews.
His subjects included Diana Ross, Mick Jagger, Calvin Klein and Jackie O. In the introduction to a book about his life Paloma Picasso wrote, “Richard Bernstein portrays stars … He celebrates their faces, he gives them larger-than-fiction size. He puts wit into the beauties, fantasy into the rich, depth into the glamorous and adds instant patina to newcomers.”
True to his status as one of Warhol’s superstars, Bernstein lived in a ground floor apartment of the Chelsea Hotel in New York, where he died aged 62 after a life of drug dependency. His artwork survives him though; beset with all the signs of true handmade works they’re as strong now as they were 40 years ago, carrying all of the power of that fame-obsessed age.
Richard Bernstein’s Interview cover art will be on display at the Fashion Illustration Gallery until 23 August. See our preview of the show on our exhibition listings site, This at There.