Looking from the contemporary stance, it's hard to imagine the American culture without Andy Warhol as the most important postwar figure not only within domains of visual art but also music, filmmaking, and media. Numerous studies were written about his domains, especially his fascinating capability to merge what was considered as low art at the time with the high art reserved for the privileged.
By changing the rules of window design and illustration, introducing innovative technique such a silkscreen, dealing with the representation of the queer community in a pre-Stonewall era, and creating an impressive melting pot such as the Factory and performing many more other pioneering moves, Warhol stood out from his generation and set at the forefront of the Pop art movement.
To summarize his activity in a broader context of the cultural transformation it made on a global scale in the past five decades, Tate Modern decided to host a grand retrospective, the first at the gallery after almost twenty years.
The upcoming show will provide a refreshed insight into the oeuvre of one of the most important artists of the 20th century based on recent analyses. With more than one hundred works Warhol’s multidisciplinary activity and his lasting influence will be overviewed in regards to the major social and political shifts happening throughout the 1960s, with the specific focus on the recurring themes in Warhol’s practice such as identity, desire, and belief.
The visitors will be able to see Warhol’s early male portraits and nudes from the 1950s which reflect how Warhol explored his sexuality; these works will be followed by the film Sleep made in 1963 that features the poet John Giorno, who was Warhol’s lover. On the other hand, the exhibition will bring to light the influence of spirituality on the work by the Pop Prince, as the artist is often referred to. Namely, he was born as Andrew Warhola in Pittsburgh to the Carpatho-Rusyn family coming from the rural area of the former Czechoslovak Republic. The family was part of the Byzantine Ruthenian Catholic Church, and Warhol was under a great impact on the strong religious conviction of his mother, Julia Warhola, with whom he lived for most of his life.
The installment will certainly include the selection of memorable pop artworks such as Marilyn Diptych (1962), Elvis I and II (1963/1964) and Race Riot (1964), that will be examined in regards to the contemporary American culture and politics, while Warhol’s plunge in experimentation will be emphasized with his famous Screen Tests (1964–6) and a reenactment of the psychedelic site-specific Exploding Plastic Inevitable from 1966 that was initially produced for the Velvet Underground performances. The adorable floating Silver Clouds installation made during the same year will be also on display to underline artist’s pass from painting to moviemaking. The exhibition will also take into consideration Warhol’s interest in publishing and TV, as well as club culture, in the context of his ongoing attempt to launch the underground stars into the mainstream.
In 1968 after the infamous murder attempt by Valerie Solanas, Warhol returned to large-scale painting so the last part of the exhibition will underline his painterly domains with a room dedicated to the Ladies and Gentlemen series, as well as Warhol’s ten-meter wide silk screen Sixty Last Suppers that is also one of his last works. This astonishing piece was made in 1986, just a few months before the artist died in his sleep, and it summons his fascination with death, immortality and the afterlife, as well as the spread of HIV/AIDS epidemic that took so many lives of the people affiliated with the artist. Sixty Last Suppers features six rows of ten silkscreened images e.g. black and white reproduction of Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic mural The Last Supper.
The exhibition highlight will be one of Warhol’s most fascinating series, Ladies and Gentlemen that was exhibited for the first time in 1975 in Ferrara; it features two hundred and fifty colored portraits of New York’s Latin and African-American drag queens and trans women.
These unique paintings were commissioned by Italian art dealer Luciano Anselmino in 1974 at the time of the increasing interest in gender fluidity and shortly after the untimely death of Warhol superstar Candy Darling. During that period trans people of color were exposed to enormous prejudice, abuse, and violence both outside and inside the queer community, a difficult position experienced by many today.
When Ladies and Gentlemen series were first shown forty years ago, the sitters were not named, although they included some prominent community figures such as Marsha 'Pay it no mind' Johnson, one of the leading figures in the 1969 Stonewall uprising. The latest research conducted by the Andy Warhol Foundation identified all but one of the fourteen sitters. Here it is important to mention that a private collection will loan twenty-five of these works for the first time in three decades.
The upcoming retrospective curated by Gregor Muir, Director of Collection, International Art, and Fiontán Moran, Assistant Curator, Tate Modern; and Yilmaz Dziewior, Director, and Stephan Diederich, Curator, Collection of Twentieth-Century Art, Museum Ludwig Cologne is jointly organized by Tate Modern and Museum Ludwig, Cologne in collaboration with the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, and Dallas Museum of Art.
A fully illustrated catalog will accompany the exhibition including an interview with Bob Colacello, the Factory insider, an artist response by Martine Syms and a new text by Olivia Laing, as well as a dense program of public talks and film screenings.
Andy Warhol will be on view at Tate Modern in London from 12 March until 6 September 2020. Afterwards it will travel to Museum Ludwig in Cologne where it will be on display from 10 October 2020 until 21 February 2021, then to the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto from 27 March until 13 June 2021, and finally it will be installed at Dallas Museum of Art from 11 July until 7 November 2021.
Featured image: Drag Queens, Left: Andy Warhol - Ladies and Gentlemen (Iris) 1975. Acrylic paint and silkscreen ink on canvas, 356 x 279 mm / Right: Andy Warhol - Ladies and Gentlemen (Wilhelmina Ross) 1975. Acrylic paint and silkscreen ink on canvas, 1270 x 1016 mm. Italian private collection. © 2020 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by DACS, London; Marilyn Diptych, 1962. Tate © 2020 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by DACS, London. All images courtesy Tate Modern.