Andy Warhol’s 2 Long-Term Romantic Partners Reveal a Different Side of the Elusive Artist

Andy Warhol was an icon in his time and continues to be long after his death. The godfather of pop art and original coiner of the phrase “15 minutes of fame,” Warhol managed to garner far more than his 15 minutes after taking the art and fashion worlds by storm and becoming a mainstay at Studio 54. There, he rubbed elbows with the likes of David Bowie, Dolly Parton, and Calvin Klein.

Because of Warhol’s meticulous curation of his public image, his personal life remained more of a mystery. However, his two long-term romantic partners, Jed Johnson and Jon Gould, saw a side of him the rest of the world didn’t. Thanks to Netflix’s The Andy Warhol Diaries, the world now has insights into the artist’s relationships and sexuality.

Viewers are buzzing about Netflix’s The Andy Warhol Diaries

A legend in his own right, iconic show creator Ryan Murphy conceived of the six-episode Netflix miniseries. He hoped to reveal a side of Warhol that fans might not yet be familiar. The series, based on Warhol’s own writings as presented in the titular 1989 book, employs an uncanny AI recreation of Warhol’s own voice as narrator. This personal touch helps the artist’s presence loom large.

The series features prominent people in Warhol’s life discussing their memories of the artist. Featured interviewees include Debbie Harry of Blondie, filmmaker John Waters, and art dealer Larry Gagosian. It is an insightful and unique peer through the looking glass into Warhol’s private life. 

Warhol’s public persona didn’t match his private life

As The Art Newspaper notes, Warhol tended to cultivate a public persona that was asexual, or at least celibate. Despite his often sexually-charged art, playing at celibacy was a way of divorcing his private life from his public image.

Some art historians suspect that part of his reluctance to be open about the queer romances that characterized his personal life had to do with his devotion to his Catholic faith. Some fans may be surprised to learn that Catholicism was such a big part of the Pittsburgh native’s life.

Furthermore, Warhol was deeply afraid of contracting AIDS. Because the media associated the disease with queer men, he may have de-emphasized his queerness to avoid being suspected of having it. In fact, his fear of the disease went so far that he was known to avoid associating with friends who contracted it.

This, combined with a tendency toward insecurity about himself, likely led him to keep his romantic interests under wraps.

The docuseries reveals Andy Warhol’s two long-term partners: Jed Johnson and Jon Gould

Artist Andy Warhol filming an early scene of 1970's 'Women in Revolt'
Andy Warhol (L) films a movie alongside Jed Johnson (R) | Jack Mitchell/Getty Images

Jed Johnson, an interior designer, was one of Warhol’s longest romantic relationships. As The Guardian notes, the pair met while Johnson was working as a courier and stayed together for 12 years. Eventually, Warhol’s devotion to Studio 54 and “hardcore sex films” drove a wedge between them.

Jon Gould, a film executive at Paramount, was the person Warhol turned to after his relationship with Johnson ended. A bit more focus has historically been given to his relationship with Gould, both because Gould was significantly younger than Warhol and because the artist was more willing to discuss his feelings for Gould publicly.

For instance, Warhol once said, “I should try to fall in love and that’s what I’m doing now with Jon Gould.” This was significant mainly because Gould was not publicly out of the closet. The pair broke up in 1985, shortly after which Gould died of AIDS.

By focusing on the romances Warhol cultivated, as well as his deep friendships, such as the bond he shared with Jean-Michel Basquiat, the series manages to uncover the artist’s further complexities.

RELATED: Dolly Parton Said Andy Warhol Is the ‘Only Person I’ve Ever Met Who’s Weirder Than Me’ and ‘Dressed Worse’