Like many, I was keenly anticipating the moment when the ArtScience Museum would fling open their doors to their exhibition of the the largest collection of Andy Warhol’s iconic works, showcased in Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal.
When most of us think of Andy Warhol, images synonymous with the Pop Art movement like Marilyn Monroe and Campbell’s Soup spring to mind. But what is so wonderful about this exhibition is that not only does it enable us to have the opportunity to see many other lesser known works, but to journey with Warhol as he develops as an artist throughout the decades experimenting with different techniques and media along the way.
Moreover, it enables us to really delve into and understand the fascinations, inspirations and the weird and wonderful world that was the beating heart of this unique and celebrated artist.
The exhibition journeys through the decades, starting at the 40s and going right through to the 80s. It’s illuminating to see how Warhol rode the wave of mass cultural media during these eras, giving it his own interpretation and meaning.
This goes hand in hand with his fixation with fame and celebrity, and how he crystallized icons of the era like Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Onasis, Elizabeth Taylor, Valentino, Caroline Herrera, Aretha Franklin and many others through his work.
An element of voyeurism runs throughout, as he observes and lets his art be a window to those periods, and the happenings in the world around him. The Jackie series – made up of images taken of Jackie Kennedy from the media during and after the time of the J.F.K. assassination is a prime example of this, while his self portraits flip things round as a voyeuristic introspect.
It’s intriguing to see and understand how Warhol was concerned with using his art to make a political statement. Take for example his Death and Disaster series, which depicts the clash of dreams and violence in the Western World in the 1960s and include silk-screens of the Birmingham Race Riots and from the 13 Most Wanted Men - a mural of mugshots of 13 “most wanted” criminals controversially projected on the New York State Pavilion.
In later years, he went on to create the Endangered series, where he depicted ten animals fighting for survival like the giant panda, black rhino and orangutan to raise funds for conservation groups.
I was really enthralled by some of his later works which taking cue from the psychedelic 70s took his silk-screen prints onto yet again another level, with the colours becoming even more rich and vivid. Don’t miss the captivating Sunset series which seems to capture and mirror the free and easy vibe of the period perfectly.
Also as part of this later period of works are his Joy Paintings, an innocent series of works for children which yet again see him approach art from another outlook. These are best closed in on through a red tunnel which adds to the child-like perspective.
It has to be said that there is a definite air of “trippiness” running through the exhibition, which is an extension of the zoned-out character of the artist himself. This is most definitely epitomized through the Silver Factory, which tries to project and encapsulate the other-worldliness of Warhol’s studio in New York (dubbed the Silver Factory).
Covered with tin foil and screening rolling footage of scenes you might come to expect whilst in the presence of Warhol and his entourage, it gave a glimpse of the surreal and eccentric world which was the backdrop to his creations. I loved the way that one room was even filled with Silver Clouds, helium filled, pillow-shaped balloons which Warhol often used to bring along to drift up to the ceilings.
And for those who really want to get in the zone, you can play dress up as Warhol and don the glasses and wig he is synonymous with and take your photo in a booth as a keepsake (make sure you have $5 in $1 coins handy!) which is a nice, fun, interactive touch. And no, I’m not sharing my photo with you here!
What I loved about this exhibition is that not only is it a chance to truly immerse yourself in the world of Warhol, but it is also a fantastic way to appreciate his many facets as an artist, and what he was actually trying to bring to the people through his art. I have admit that before this exhibition, I don’t think I truly grasped what that was and now it’s absolutely crystal clear.
From his famed silk-screen works, sketches in graphite and ink sketches, bottled line drawings, Polaroids, films and sculptures, I was rather in awe of how he used all these methods and more to simplify art, mirror what is loved by the public, and bring it right back round to them in the true ways of Pop Art.
If there’s only one exhibition you go and see this year, make it this because this is a blockbuster if ever there was one. Go, immerse, and be-inspired.
Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal is at the ArtScience Museum, 10 Bayfront Avenue, 018956. Open 10am to 10pm daily including weekends and public holidays (last entry 9pm) until 12 August. For more information and ticket charges please see here.
All images credited to © 2012 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Written by Ms Demeanour