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In ConversationHilton Als Reflects on Warhol, the AIDS crisis, and Jean Michel-Basquiat

Writer and theater critic Hilton Als, wearing a light colored blazer and dress shirt, smiles at the camera.

Last November, acclaimed writer and critic Hilton Als spoke with Milton Fine Curator of Art Jessica Beck on his writing, research, and reflections on Andy Warhol. The lively conversation covered areas of Als’ research including his new book on the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, his ongoing Andy Warhol: The Series, and his previously published essays on Warhol’s relationship with Jean Michel-Basquiat.

This past December, Jessica Beck, Milton Fine Curator of Art The Andy Warhol Museum, spoke with writer and critic Hilton Als about his writing, research, and reflections on Warhol.

About Hilton Als
Hilton Als began contributing to The New Yorker in 1989, writing pieces for ‘The Talk of the Town’. He became a staff writer in 1994, theatre critic in 2002, and lead theater critic in 2012. His reviews are not simply reviews; they are provocative contributions to the discourse on theatre, race, class, sexuality, and identity in America. He is currently working on a new book titled I Don’t Remember (Penguin, early 2021), a book length essay on his experiences in AIDS era New York.

Before starting at The New Yorker, Als was a staff writer for the Village Voice and an editor- at-large at Vibe. Als edited the catalogue for the 1994-95 Whitney Museum of American Art exhibition Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art. His first book, The Women, was published in 1996. His book, White Girls, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2014 and winner of the 2014 Lambda Literary Award for Nonfiction, discusses various narratives of race and gender. He wrote the introduction to the Penguin Classics edition of The Early Stories of Truman Capote, and was guest editor for the 2018 Best American Essays. He wrote Andy Warhol: The Series, a book containing two previously unpublished television scripts for a series on the life of Andy Warhol. His in-progress debut play, Lives of the Performers, has been performed at Carolina Performing Arts and LAXART in Los Angeles. He also wrote Edna Lewis a work that will be performed by Carolina Performing Arts in February 2020.

In 1997, Als was selected by the New York Association of Black Journalists for first prize for Magazine Critique/Review and Magazine Arts and Entertainment. He was awarded a Guggenheim for creative writing in 2000 and the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism for 2002-03. In 2016, he received the Lambda Literary’s Trustee Award for Excellence in Literature, as well as the Windham Campbell Prize for Nonfiction. In 2017, Als won the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, and in 2018 the Langston Hughes Medal. In 2020 he was named an inaugural Presidential Visiting Scholar at Princeton University for the 2020-21 academic year.

Als is an associate professor of writing at Columbia University’s School of the Arts and has taught at Yale University, Wesleyan, and Smith College. He lives in New York City.

About Jessica Beck
Jessica Beck is the Milton Fine Curator of Art at The Warhol. She has curated many projects including: Andy Warhol: My Perfect Body in 2016 and Devan Shimoyama: Cry, Baby in 2018—the artist’s first solo museum exhibition, which debuted at The Warhol to great acclaim from The New York Times and The Burlington Contemporary. In 2019, she co-curated Kim Gordon’s first museum solo exhibition in North America, Kim Gordon: Lo-Fi Glamour. She is currently at work on a major exhibition of the friendship, partnership, and working relationship between Marisol Escobar and Andy Warhol to debut at The Warhol in fall of 2021 and travel to the Pérez Art Museum Miami in 2022. Beck has published widely with The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Cantor Center for the Arts, Gagosian Quarterly, and Burlington Magazine. In 2017 and 2018, Beck served as the visiting scholar at Carnegie Mellon School of Art, where she taught critical studies and thesis writing seminars. She completed her MA with distinction from the Courtauld Institute of Art.