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Bruno Bischofberger

It’s hard, if possible, to overstate the influence art collector and dealer, gallerist, producer, and cherished confidant, Bruno Bischofberger (born 1940), had on Andy Warhol’s career trajectory. It was Bischofberger who commissioned portraits of his high-profile clients and more well-known celebrities, leading Warhol to ultimately make his massively popular Mao series (even more directly inspired by Henry Geldzahler) and produce a prolific portfolio of portraiture in the 70s and 80s. Prior to that, he boosted Warhol’s profile in Europe, giving his work exposure to patrons in Zurich in 1965, the same year Ileana Sonnabend was doing so in Paris. He also seems to have been crucial in the construction of Warhol’s catalogue raisonné.

Bruno Bischofberger was born in the aforementioned Zurich and went to university there, studying art history and folk art. He opened his gallery in 1963, and by 1965, was already hosting group shows dedicated to American Pop Art. He met Warhol in 1966 and approached him in 1968 to buy several of his pieces. However, Warhol reportedly had “given up painting”, perhaps a combination of shock from threatened legal action after the premier of his Flowers series and his increasing interest in filmmaking. Incidentally, Bischofberger would produce one of Warhol’s films, a rarely viewed one entitled “L’ Amour”, primarily shot in Paris.

Bischofberger was still able to acquire some early artworks including a Coca-Cola bottle, Superman and Batman, and many from the Death and Disaster series from that 1968 meeting. And obviously, Warhol did indeed pick up the brush yet again (with a little help from Jean-Michel Basquiat), with Bischofberger regularly buying his paintings well into the 80s. The men also traveled together often, touring Swiss sites such as St. Moritz and Appenzell. Bischofberger even made Warhol the godfather to his son, Magnus. 

Bischofberger was the agent of many other renowned artists, perhaps most famously Jean-Michel Basquiat. It was Bruno Bischofberger who introduced him to Warhol, sparking their legendary collaboration. One can see a fictionalized version of this trio in Julian Schnabel’s 1996 film, Basquiat, with Dennis Hopper portraying Bischofberger. More recently, he has been collaborating with his architect daughter, Nina, to redress buildings to store and exhibit his private collection of furniture. 

 

Silkscreen of a young Bruno Bischofberger on canvas, by Andy Warhol.
Silkscreen of Bruno Bischofberger on canvas by Andy Warhol, circa 1969.
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