The expression ’15 minutes of fame’ was inspired by Andy Warhol’s words “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes”, It appeared in the program for a 1968 exhibition of his work at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Sweden. But in fact, it’s constantly with us this way or another.
For Warhol, however, these 15 minutes were stretched to hours and years!
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The retrospective exhibition now on view at the Whitney Museum of American art in New York City, until March 31, 2019, proves beyond any doubt the influence, inventiveness, and importance of one of America’s most recognized, popular, controversial artists.
In this first retrospective since 1989 organized by the Deputy director Donna De Salvo, perhaps the largest scope of ideas and range of works, we can see into the soul, the mind, the life, his family history, his beliefs , faith, commercial approach, entrepreneurship, and mentorship. This Pop artist didn’t leave one stone unturned. His trademark blend of irony and detachment is evident throughout this monumental yet very personal and at times intimate show.
The world of Andy Warhol is a true American story; its obsessions with celebrities, duplication of products, business art, they all are revealed in 350 works of art displayed throughout 3 floors and an outside installation at the Dia foundation-the enormous painting titled “shadows.”
The Lobby gallery shouldn’t be missed, floor to ceiling is covered with Warhol’s most popular Commissioned Portraits of celebrities, politicians, people in the news or artists that surrounded him in the factory (his studio and social meeting place, downtown New York City) some were gallerists, family or just friends. A very powerful installation of faces that made the 15 minutes and beyond that were seen by Warhol as influencing our daily lives whether we like it or not. Commissioned portraits were Warhol’s single largest body of work. He produced hundreds of portraits that became his signature, between 1968-1987.
Because of his deep interest in portraiture, he revived the tradition of portraiture in America. This for him was the perfect way to pursue the rich and famous who were extremely flattered to be the subject of his work.
“Success is a job in NY” was the Title of Donna DeSalvo’s show – at the grey gallery, New York University. Indeed this is how Warhol saw business and art and what it takes to make it in New York City, the city that he loved most especially the downtown.
In New York in the 1980’s he was noticed by Donald Trump who loved to say “Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art” But I haven’t seen one portrait of Donald Trump in this show.
When Adam Weinberg, the Whitney Museum director, introduced the curator of the show Donna DeSalvo, he enjoyed mentioning with a smile, that during a visit with Donna, when the museum was still in construction, she mentioned to the architects that the 5th floor needs more space, air is needed up there ” I have a feeling she was already thinking back then about this monumental exhibition…” The spacious 5th floor is the place to start viewing this complex, contradictory, enduring, existing, demanding, Andy Warhol Mega exhibition.
Here the curator installed with great sensitivity the relationships between the works that work so well in communicating to each other through their images or symbols and no matter how small or big they are they keep proud in their space in the sun. She made sure every work sits perfectly right wherever they are. So much that the evening before the exhibition opened she noticed that the dollar sign is too low on the wall “it needs to go 2 inches higher” she told her dedicated staff and thanked them for making it happen. Yes, interestingly enough it was the American dollar sign $ that needed to be elevated to its higher position where it rules in American life and Warhol’s perception of America.
Here the visitor stepping out of the elevator, is faced with a huge camouflage work, uncharacteristic of most of his style mostly unknown, builds up immediate curiosity to see the rest on the 5th floor, that gives a real window into Warhol’s diverse exciting career that keeps us constantly asking questions, learning historical events, taking sides, exploring his body of work while he’s challenging us and inspiring us trying to understand this creative process. His love and obsession for Elvis and Marylyn Monroe, of course, have a very major display on this floor. A special stage is also given to the beginning of his career as a commercial illustrator and shoe designer. That thought him that original art may be very beautiful and engaging in person but if it goes to be printed you may choose the work the prints better…
At the last gallery on the 5th Floor another large camouflage work taking command of the space. One of Warhol’s last works before his unexpected death at the age of 58th in 1987. The subject close to Warhol’s life- faith- ‘The Last Supper’- All unique to his collaborative process with artists in his studio. The excellent wall labels by the works of the exhibition giving an educational study and revealing the creative process that is a must to read.
The 3rd floor invites us to take time out and enjoy the experimental videos, TV, films, and prints that he had created throughout his career. Here an in-depth view of the circles of his mind can be learned and observed. From a simple view of Andy Warhol eating a sandwich, short commercials, full-length TV series, diary-like videos of his studio activities to a groundbreaking output in film, video, and screen-printing.
No question, Andrew Andy Warhol, the child of Slovak immigrant parents, a sickly kid with problematic skin didn’t have an easy time growing up gay in Pittsburgh during the Depression. He was definitely outside the mainstream American culture. But in spite of it and maybe because of it, he developed his own unique outlook on life and was spotted almost immediately as a very different bird that people noticed, watched, entered his circle of life and ended up in one of his portraits.