[Exclusive] John Waters on the Audacity of Cy Twombly

We’re premiering Sotheby’s video interview of John Waters, which finds the cult legend talking about the work of transgressive contemporary artist Cy Twombly.

by Gabrielle Bruney
30 April 2016, 1:00pm

Screencap via

Now that Cy Twombly's works regularly sell for scores of millions of dollars, it’s easy to forget just how divisive and revolutionary a figure he was. His aggressively un-pretty abstraction, his signature scrawling scribbles—all this perplexed audiences and divided critics. So who better to pay tribute to Twombly than the legendarily transgressive filmmaker John Waters, who was both a lover of Twombly’s art and one of his personal friends. In a new video interview presented by Sotheby’s and premiering exclusively on The Creators Project, Waters talks about his own relationship with contemporary art, his admiration for Twombly’s work, and their friendship.

"I think [Waters and Twombly] have a similar way of seeing the world,” Sotheby’s Mitra Amestoy tells The Creators Project. "Both take things that perhaps aren’t seen as conventionally beautiful– whether it is the motifs in Twombly paintings or the characters in John’s films– and celebrate them in the most captivating and wonderful way."

“Cy Twombly is my hero because in the beginning his work so infuriated people,” Waters says in the Sotheby’s interview. He talks about the Twombly prints he owns, which feature the scrawled names of ancient Greek poets and philosophers. “Living with his work is great because every day when you pass it you think of his nerve. The audacity of him doing this.”

Cy Twombly,  Untitled (New York City), 1968. Image courtesy of Sotheby’s

Sotheby’s produced the video in conjunction with their May 11th auction, in which two Twombly paintings are up for sale. One of them, Untitled (New York City) is expected to fetch upwards of $40 million.

Cy Twombly. Screencap via

While having your work sell for tens of millions fits most people’s definition of success, Waters proposes another way to measure prosperity. “[Twombly was never around assholes, and that is success,” he says. “That’s quite a badge to have as an artist—that your work can keep assholes away."

Cy Twombly Untitled (Bacchus 1st Version V), 2004. Image courtesy of Sotheby’s


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Cy Twombly