"In contrast to his bohemian consorts of the past, [Warhol] now concentrated his attentions on the wealthy, partying socialites who constituted the glittery jet set-the Beautiful People." (D. Bourdon, Warhol, New York, 1989, p. 327)
In the 1970s, Warhol began to focus on commissioned portraits of the rich and famous and everyone from socialites, celebrities and art world figures vied to be immortalized by the artist. Brimming with the style and energy of the decade, Mark Leibovitz was dubbed one of Warhol's "signature portraits" (I. Schaffner, Essential Warhol, New York, 1999, p. 83), as it captures both the handsome face of its sitter and the mythic year of 1977-when Studio 54 opened its doors and Saturday Night Fever created a worldwide sensation.
In 1977 Leibovitz was working as an art dealer at one of New York City's oldest art galleries and through his family connections the young Leibovitz was catapulted into the vibrant Manhattan art world, befriending contemporaries like Warhol, as well as established artists like Salvador Dalí and Norman Rockwell. Although initially working in the art world, Leibovitz found his passion in real estate law. He was one of the pioneering developers who invested in property in Manhattan's Hell's Kitchen district and in the Upper West Side.
Mark Leibovitz testifies to Warhol's uncanny knack for capturing the essence of his subject. The artist translates the languorous pull of the era with his colored paint and gestural flourishes. With his fingers, he smears vertical stripes of coral and blue; the hatched, zigzagging lines seem to evoke the flashing lights and reverberating music of dimly-lit clubs. Also in the 1870s, the artist adopted a less precise, semi-abstract printing technique. The present work, with its pools of color and hazy, faded imagery, seems to signal the transience of an inimitable period, visually echoing Warhol's nihilistic adage, 'live fast, die young, and leave a good-looking corpse.' The picture is especially poignant in light of Leibovitz and Warhol's early deaths ten years later.