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Black book open to first page. Left page: nun reading from book. Right page: letters "BP".

Brigid Berlin, The Topical Bible, 1960s-’70s, 6 1/2 x 10 1/4 x 6 inches (16.5 x 26 x 15.2 cm) © Vincent Fremont/Vincent Fremont Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved. Collection of Ryder Road Foundation.

The torpid affect and exasperating glibness; the terminal tongue in cheek; the ruthless detachment, mind games, and cruelty: I can understand why someone would want to put a bullet into Andy Warhol. In 1964, East Village reprobate Dorothy Podber sent one through his silk-screened paintings of Marilyn Monroe. Later, Valerie Solanis planted a few in the artist’s own flesh, piercing his lungs, liver, esophagus, stomach, and spleen. Brigid Berlin—compulsive documentarian, Factory superstar and stalwart, amphetamine freak, and all-around shitkicker—never Popped the master, but she mortally wounded his ego: Whenever he asked her what she wanted for Christmas, she’d say “Andy, anything, but not a painting.” 

Crazies and climbers suffused Warhol’s universe. Yet Berlin (1939–2020) could more than hold her own among the best (and worst) of them, likely owing to her gilded but perilous upbringing on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. She was the daughter of staunch right-winger and Nixon confidant Richard E. Berlin, the onetime president and chief executive officer of Hearst Corporation, and Muriel “Honey” Berlin, a socialite who spent all her waking hours trying to change her overweight and obstreperous child into a reed-thin, high-society good girl by putting her on strict diets and shipping her off to fat camps. And although Brigid was a doyenne of downtown, she never quite shed her politically conservative roots: She was a lifelong Republican and a diehard Fox News watcher who, according to her obituary in the New York Times, was “heartened” by Donald Trump’s ascension to the White House. 

Brigid Berlin: The Heaviest, organized by Alison M. Gingeras, was a modestly scaled yet comprehensive survey of the artist’s work (including tape recordings, Polaroids, needlepoint pillows, and Berlin’s famous “tit prints”—monotypes she made with her breasts), bolstered by a wide range of ephemera (family photos, assorted tchotchkes, letters, news clippings, and a framed menagerie of dog collars for her beloved pugs Afrika, Fame, Fortune, India, and Whoopi). The exhibition also featured tributes to Berlin from other artists, such as Francesco Clemente, Scott Covert, and Jane Kaplowitz, lending the show a uniquely affectionate dimension.