Thursday, October 4, 2012

warhol at the met - fake it till you make it

Was Andy Warhol (1928-1987) a genius, an artist, or was he simply the first truly self-made celebrity in a culture that has brought us Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian, and Brett Cohen? Regarding Warhol: Sixty Artists, Fifty Years, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, running through December 31, 2012, attempts to prove exactly how significant Warhol was as an artist by juxtaposing 45 of his best pieces with some 90 works by other artists purported to have been influenced by him.

During our three days of fill in the blank in NYC last weekend, my friend and I stopped at the Met and made our own decision.

Although the other pieces in the exhibit were interesting, the Warhols were really what we came to see, and the most impressive, IOHO. These were iconic images and classic Warhols that were instantly recognizable. My favorite thing about the Warhol's were the classic sixties colors, the graphical nature of the art and the use of repetition (kind of invented by Warhol). If they weren't considered art back in their day, they sure are now.

Self-Portraits, Andy Warhol, 1967
Detroit Institute of Arts.

The exhibit was broken into five areas: 
  1. "Daily News: From Banality to Disaster,"
  2. "Portraiture: Celebrity and Power,"
  3. "Queer Studies: Shifting Identities,"
  4. "Consuming Images: Appropriation, Abstraction, and Seriality," and 
  5. "No Boundaries: Business, Collaboration, and Spectacle."
Selected highlights from the Warhol exhibit are here. Our highlights follow according to exhibit category.

1. Daily News: From Banality to Disaster

These comprised Warhol's famous images from everyday life.

Big Campbell's Soup Can, Wahol, 1962,
 The Menil Collection, Houston.

Dollar Sign, Warhol, 1981,
The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh.

Eight Over Eight, Damien Hirst, British, 1997-98, sculpture,
Collection of Glenn and Amanda Fuhrman, New York.

I had to research Eight over Eight to figure out what in the world it was about. From Damien's website:
The used packages that fill the cabinets, described by Hirst as “empty < expletive deleted> vessels”, were originally arranged as if the cabinet were itself a body, with each item positioned according to the organs it medically related to. However, this system did not last and the “minimalist delicious colours” of the designs swiftly became the most important criterion for their arrangement within each cabinet.

French Chris on the Convertible, NYC, Nan Goldin, 1979.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

2. Portraiture: Celebrity and Power

This group of pictures explored Andy's fascination with celebrity, supposedly garnered through some years as a kid, bedridden, who occupied himself with his mother's celebrity magazines, cutting out pictures and sketching.

Andy Warhol's images of Jackie were taken from a shot snapped just before Kennedy was assassinated.  Learning that at the exhibit, I wondered how pleased Jacqueline was with her Warhol portrait all these years. Maybe she wasn't so flattered. And does her portrait really belong in the Daily News section above?

Red Jackie, Warhol, 1964,
The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh.

Mao, Warhol, 1973,
Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Self Portrait, Robert Mapplethorpe, 1980,
Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

3. Queer Studies: Shifting Identities

This category was fairly self-explanatory. And Robert Mapplethorpe could have been in several categories as well. There were several of Mapplethorpe's photographs in the exhibit. I have read Patti Smith's 2010 book, Just Kids, which is the story of her and Mapplethorpe's relationship which also coincided with Warhol's Factory Days. I highly recommend this book, Ms. Smith is an excellent writer and has a very interesting story to tell. Patti Smith performed a tribute concern to Warhol at the Met exhibit less than 24 hours before we walked through.

Before and After, Warhol, 1961,
The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Lady Warhol, Christopher Makos, 1981,
Courtesy the Artist.

4. Consuming Images: Appropriation, Abstraction, and Seriality

This series focused on Warhol's use of repetition to make things interesting. The museum had a room with this wallpaper in it (no photography please). And big silver balloons were floating around.

Cow Wallpaper, Warhol, 1966,
The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh.

You get the general idea.

Mona Lisa, Warhol, 1963,
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Double Ghost Yentl (My Elvis), Deborah Kass, 1997.
courtesy the Artist and Paul Kasmin Gallery.

5. No Boundaries: Business, Collaboration, and Spectacle

No Boundaries discussed Warhol's partnerships in the music and film making industries as well as other collaborative efforts. This area included Warhol's frequent use of flowers in his practice (somewhat unrelated but that was where the flowers were).

Flowers, Warhol, 1967-68,
The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Untitled (Cowboy), Richard Prince, 1986,
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Warhol made a western which is the significance of the above cowboy print. From IMDB,
In the wild wild west, Ramona Alvarez and her perpetually stoned nurse run into five gay cowboys.
After reading the IMDB synopsis (which goes on and on, I might add), I now have a clearer understanding of the somewhat bizarre scenes from the movie which were showing on a TV at the Met.

Self-Portrait, Warhol, 1986,
The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

And it turns out the "real" art critics hated the show. Says Leighann Morrisu in
We’re asking ourselves: which artist hasn’t responded to Andy Warhol in some way or another? Oh yeah, pretty much none. With all this in mind, critics ask: is Regarding Warhol an intelligently curated retrospective that explores important aspects of Warhol’s work, or is Regarding Warhol a celebrity-driven, gimmicky attendance boost?
Jerry Saltz in New York magazine,
For "10 long galleries," these poor saps must navigate the mindless juxtaposition of some 45 "first-rate" Warhols with about twice that many works by other artists. Superficial connections are the only ones evident. The whole event looks like nothing more than a "cynical gimmick to bring in crowds."
Peter Schjaeldahl in The New Yorker,
When we gauge the enduring power of his 1966 Elsie the Cow wallpaper or a 1967 self-portrait, his "eye for improbable chromatic harmonies cannot be overrated."Rating the other artists by their capacity to answer Warhol's challenges turns out to be one of the show's great pleasures. "If you go, take someone to argue with.
What do you think about Warhol?
Artistic genius or outstanding publicist?

Related Posts:


  1. I put Warhol and Damien Hirst in the same category...masters of self-promotion/slightly talented artists. After watching Exit Through the Gift Shop, however, I've decided that there needs to be another category just for Thierry Guetta: master of total brainwash/totally talentless artist.

  2. As usual, I learn something from you Dana. Mr. Brainwash? Who knew. Warhol was the master of self-promotion, I totally agree. But was there a shred of talent there. Yeah. I do like his graphic designs and his different way of looking at things. All the strange stuff (and you know what I mean), not so much.

  3. I agree that Warhol's graphic design was innovative, and I actually like some of it. I also agree that he has had a ton of influence on other people. I hope you watch Exit Through the Gift Shop. I'd love to hear your take on Guetta...and the gullibility/suggestibility of the public.

    I did a similar post questioning Damien Hirst's talent some time ago. I really like discussions like these. Sometimes they make for spirited debate, and that's always fun.

    1. I will watch it. Since attending the Warhol exhibit, I have done some more research on the reviews. Super controversial. The art people, some of them, DO NOT love this guy. Let me see if I can find some good spots to add them above. ;)

    2. Okay just reread... art critics hate the show, seem to agree reluctantly, that Warhol was an influence.

  4. It was probably hard for him to stay focused during that time period what with the milieu in New York including partying, alcohol and drugs. He may have become lost, finally ending up a caricature of himself--sort of like Hemingway in an earlier time period.

    1. Or, alternatively, did he create the caricature? It was certainly a period of time full of temptations with no consequences. Ominous much? :)

  5. We have an exhibition of modern art direct from MOMA here in Perth at the moment Rebecca. My husband and I went, and I have to say that the Warhol's on display had little impact on me. I poured over some of the other artists work, but the Warhol's I just cruised past (which is ironic because it was his work I most wanted to see)
    In having said that, I know nothing about art, just what I like.
    Here's the link to my post on it on my blog (if you're interested)

    1. That is an interesting comment. When you look at Warhol's alongside other perhaps honestly, more talented artists, like a Matisse or a Picasso, maybe that is honestly the impact. Now in the Met exhibit, next to the Warhol wannabes, the Warhols look distinctly better.

  6. I really love Warhol's drawings of cats and dogs - they are so beautiful and full of character and charm. I think he was definitely a self promoter (more women should be!)but I have always had a soft spot for him.

    1. Oh my gosh! Just learned something new again. I did not know about Warhol's cats and dogs. I went and checked them out. So cute and sweet. I have a bit of a thing for cats (and dogs too).

    2. Okay, for fun, I added a Label "cats" to every post that has a cat picture. :)


Comments keep things interesting and I respond to most.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.