Ladies & Gentlemen (F. & S. II.134) is a print from one of Andy Warhol’s lesser-known works the Ladies & Gentlemen series (1975), that depicts 14 anonymous Black and Latinx drag queens and transwomen in his renowned graphic style. This particular portrait shows a woman looking elegantly up to the viewer with her hand behind her neck, exuding glamour and femininity.
The print series remains controversial as it depicts a community that Warhol was not part of, with the subjects having very little agency in how they were portrayed and where the works would be displayed. Indeed, in an interview from 1979, one of Warhol’s sitters, Marsha P. Johnson, pointed to the absurdity of her portrait being on sale for thousands of dollars, whilst she struggled to pay rent.
To create the series Warhol recruited models from Manhattan’s Gilded Grape bar, a popular space where New York’s Black and Latinx trans women and drag queens came to spend time with one another. Warhol then took over 500 Polaroids of 14 sitters, paying each of them only $50. This print shows the original Polaroid image to be flattened and simplified into two tones, with blocks of pink and brown seemingly collaged on top of the screen print. The layers of colour abstract the image into a 1980s Pop Art icon, reminiscent of portraits of Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor.