The Night the Roxy Opened was the first work that Playboy Enterprises commissioned from Warhol and represents the beginning of their long and successful working relationship. The drawing represents the legendary opening night of The Roxy, also known as The Cathedral of the Motion Picture, the grandest and most opulent of movie palaces built in 1927 in New York City. Warhol's drawing appeared in the Playboy clubzine Show Business Illustrated and accompanied an excerpt from Ben M. Hall's 1961 book The Best Remaining Seats which discusses the premiere event.
As an image, The Night the Roxy Opened is classic pre-Pop Warhol with the characteristic blotted line technique, bold colors and whimsical gold collage elements that he developed in his early fashion advertisements and illustrations. Warhol's early work as a commercial artist in the 1950s brought him awards and accolades within the New York advertising world, as well as financial stability. The Night the Roxy Opened was created at the pinnacle of this first period of success. The subject matter of Roxy would have appealed to Warhol, who despite his success, craved such scenes of kleig light fame for himself. The opening night grandeur of the Roxy and its privileged audience are bathed in vibrant colors and adorned with gold trimmings. The Cathedral of the Motion Picture is treated with Warholian reverance by the young artist who would soon be a filmmaker and star in his own right.
Interestingly, Warhol's early commercial work is probably closest to the artist himself, because it reveals the artist's hand. Warhol's "fine art" production represented an almost clean break from the use of the artist's hand, a virtually total mechanization of production, relying on stencils, silk-screens, and other image transfer techniques. Warhol's work for Playboy, however, maintains a rare sense of the artist's touch as a direct result of his close working relationship with the magazine. These works, from The Night the Roxy Opened to the Polaroid collages on the following pages, offer a unique look at the character of the artist, which he himself actively obscured through detachment and comparative anonymity in the majority of his work.
Fig. 1 Copyright 1985 Playboy
Fig. 2. Andy Warhol with bunny at the re-opening of the Playboy Club in New York, 1985.
Fig. 3 Detail