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‘Regarding Warhol’ at NYC’s Metropolitan Museum

September 26, 2012

Andy Warhol, the man who made plain tasting Campbell’s soup famous and spoke of Coca-Cola as being a great equaliser, enjoyed by the bum on the corner and the President alike, is receiving another posthumous “15 minutes of fame” here in NYC.

 

Campbell’s are to release a set of four limited edition series of soup cans that mimic Andy Warhol’s garish famous Pop-Art style in tribute to Warhol, who made his name through his series of 32 Campbell’s soup paintings.

 

Most people have heard of the iconic American artist and his much quoted prophesy: “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” I’m no art buff but his garish Pop Art Marilyn Monroe posters heralding his exhibition “Regarding Warhol: Sixty Artists, Fifty Years” along Fifth Avenue were a bit of giveaway.  No excuse was needed to join friends, who, like hundreds others, flocked to last Tuesday’s opening day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 

The Met claims this is the first exhibition to explore the “full nature and extent” of Warhol’s deep influence on contemporary art, some 25 years after his death. And as if to prove its point, more than 100 works created by sixty artists captured by Warhol’s subversive spell (or indeed vice versa), were juxtaposed alongside those of Warhol’s 45 or so creations.

 

Thus creating “a fascinating dialogue” between like-minded artists suggests the Met; perhaps of the kind a fly on the brick walls of Warhol’s famous Pittsburgh studio “The Factory” would have heard. Artists, intellectuals, drag queens, bohos and wealthy Hollywood celebs would gather here to gossip, swap ideas and inspire creativity.

 

I wandered through the five thematic sections covering the major themes present in Warhol’s ouevre, and, wishing to recall the artworks that most caught my eye through the throng of hovering heads, I surreptitiously snapped a photo or two, the quality of which I apologise in advance for:

 

“Daily News: From Banality to Disaster”

 

I made a beeline for the ‘Big Campbell’s Soup Can, 19 cents’ painting that typifies Warhol’s obsession with the banality of everyday life in 1960s consumerist America; it also ensured his epic breakthrough into the art world.

 

Chinese artist Ai Wei-Wei’s antique “Cola Cola vase” nearby seemed out of place: incredibly, this was a neolithic vase (5000-3000BC) painted over in 2010 with the ubiquitous red Coca Cola logo. The Beijing-born artist is known for highlighting the loss of culture by transforming historical objects into something new; defacing an antiquity in the name of art! Hope the paint comes off.

 

“Portraiture: Celebrity and Power”

 

‘Michael Jackson and Bubbles’, the kitsch gold and white porcelain statue by Jeff Koons was a big draw. So too was the iconic silkscreen ‘Turquoise Marilyn’ of Marilyn Monroe.

 

But the bosomy bust of model Stephanie Seymour by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan hung up like a deer’s head was my personal favourite: the model’s husband had actually commissioned this sculpture; the perfect depiction of a trophy wife?

 

I actually saw this piece in Cattelan’s Guggenheim exhibition earlier this year in which his entire art collection (including bizarre taxidermic horses and wax effigies of Hitler and Pope John Paul II) were suspended from the gallery’s ceiling to dramatic effect.

 

Maurizio Cattelan’s Stephanie Seymour in background—the perfect depiction of a trophy wife.

 

“Queer Studies: Shifting Identities”

 

I lingered here long enough to take a second look at the Catherine Opie’s photo of a lady’s neck tattooed with the words: “DYKE”. Now that’s what I call making a statement.

 

“Consuming Images: Appropriation, Abstraction and Seriality”

 

The Alabama riots in the Deep South were depicted in graphic photos.  Racism is still disconcertingly rampant in certain pockets of America; check out the Klu Klux Klan website (www.kkk.com). The wallpaper sporting a repeat pattern of a black man hanging limply from a tree while a white man sleeps fitfully on his soft pillow stopped a few people in their tracks.

 

“No Boundaries: Business, Collaboration, and Spectacle”

 

This final section covered Warhol’s other pursuits stemming from his obsession with celebrity culture. His fashion magazine ‘Interview’ launched back in 1969 is still going strong (that’s quite an achievement) and viewed by many as the precursor to today’s celebrity gossip magazines such as ‘Hello’ and ‘OK’.

 

He was a prolific filmmaker too, completing 60 films with titillating titles like: ‘Blow Job’, ‘Eat’ to ‘Empire’ the latter consisting of eight hours of footage of the Empire State Building which featured in the exhibition. Warhol also seems to be credited with initiating the early forms of the popular reality shows we see today.

 

New York’s art critics have largely slammed the Met’s ‘Regarding Warhol’ for being lacklustre and chaotic. A bit harsh I think, but either way,  it’s rather timely given Christie’s recent appointment to sell a trove of Warhol’s art from his remaining estate.

 

If Warhol’s posthumous ‘15 minutes of fame’ bring his foundation the $100million hoped for as grants to struggling museums, squeezed by the US government’s dwindling support and the crummy economy, then so be it! 

 

 

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