*On Wednesday, December 19, 2012, an elite cluster of friends attended an exclusive viewing and reception for Regarding Warhol: Sixty Artists, Fifty Years (September 18-December 31, 2012) at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue, NYC, as guests of The Met’s director Thomas P. Campbell, president Emily K. Rafferty, chief audience development officer Donna Williams, and The Multicultural Audience Development Initiative’s Advisory Committee (MADI).
The show – which was made possible by Morgan Stanley with additional support provided by the Gail and Parker Gilbert Fund and The Daniel and Estrellita Brodsky Foundation — was originally set for Thursday, November 8, 2012 but had to be cancelled because of Superstorm Sandy. Additional support was provided by the Gail and Parker Gilbert Fund and The Daniel and Estrellita Brodsky Foundation. The exhibition was also supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.
Better late than never were the sentiments of the beautiful people who wandered through The Tisch Galleries to preview the show which was long overdue for art enthusiasts as for many, many years, no exhibition has delve into Warhol’s full influence in contemporary art making Regarding Warhol: Sixty Artists, Fifty Years the first major exhibition to do so through approximately 45 works by Warhol alongside 100 works by some 60 other artists.
The thoroughly astounding exhibit was presented in five thematic sections — juxtaposed prime examples of Warhol’s paintings, sculpture, and films with those by other artists who in key ways reinterpret, respond, or react to his groundbreaking work. The exhibition shows the dialogue and conversation between works of art and artists across generations.
Regarding Warhol: Sixty Artists, Fifty Years opens with Warhol’s fascination and engagement with the imagery of everyday life in the section “Daily News: From Banality to Disaster.” His interest in commonplace or banal subject matter found in newspapers and magazines led him to create his early depictions of tabloid advertisements and press coverage of disasters.
These works were clearly influential for other artists working at the time, such as Sigmar Polke and Hans Haacke, who took on similar subject matter. Key examples by younger contemporary artists such as Vik Muniz and Sarah Lucas are indicative of artists’ continued engagement with the news of the day.
Included in this section was Warhol’s interest in items of American consumer culture of the 1960s (Brillo Soap Pads Box, 1964) and its connection to later artists who appropriate objects from the supermarket or the department store, including Jeff Koons, Robert Gober, and Damien Hirst.
It’s no secret that Warhol was fascinated by the “packaging” of celebrities and his engagement with portrait-making became a signature of his style of art that is explored in the second section of the exhibition, “Portraiture: Celebrity and Power.”
The best of Warhol’s notable portraits of celebrities, such as Red Jackie (1964) and Turquoise Marilyn (1964), are paired with contemporary examples by Elizabeth Peyton, Karen Kilimnik, and Cindy Sherman. Warhol’s portrayals of artists, poets, and musicians of his day were juxtaposed alongside similar examples by leading artists including Alex Katz and Chuck Close.
Links between Warhol’s practice of society portraiture of the 1970s, as well as his artistic engagement with political figures (particularly Mao ) and the work of later artists, were also a part of the exhibit.
The exhibition’s third section, “Queer Studies: Camouflage and Shifting Identities,” examined Warhol’s importance as an artist who broke new ground in representing issues of sexuality and gender in the post-war period.
Warhol’s enigmatic persona developed over the course of his career was well represented by his last Self-Portrait (1986). In this work, made the year before his untimely death, his visage is concealed by a veil of camouflage.
This iconic work opens a section devoted to frank representations of the male body that share their subject and composition with Warhol’s Torso from Behind (1977) — as in David Hockney’s Boy about to Take a Shower (1964) or Robert Gober’s Untitled (1990).
This section strived to represent a new openness toward different varieties of queer identity that Warhol’s oeuvre ushered in, largely through work by photographers such as Catherine Opie, Richard Avedon, Peter Hujar, or Robert Mapplethorpe.
The last two sections of the exhibition dealt in diverse ways with the proliferation of images so inherent to Warhol’s projects. In “Consuming Images: Appropriation, Abstraction, and Seriality,” Warhol’s groundbreaking use of preexisting photographic sources, often endlessly repeated (Baseball, 1962).
His appropriation of art history (Mona Lisa, 1963), and his interest in abstraction (Oxidation Painting, 1978), for example, were grouped with work by Pictures Generation artists such as Richard Prince and Cindy Sherman for their uses of appropriation, or with contemporary painters like Christopher Wool, whose patterned painting Untitled plays with all-over abstraction and seriality in Warholian ways.
For the final section of the show, “No Boundaries: Business, Collaboration, and Spectacle,” Warhol’s interest in artistic partnership through filmmaking, magazine publishing, and design was highlighted.
Also fore grounded was his fascination with creating environments that envelop the viewer entirely — the Gesamtkunstwerk of his all-over Flowers installations and his wallpapered gallery walls inspired other artists to extend their practice beyond the traditional spaces of the rectangular canvas into the world beyond.
Regarding Warhol: Sixty Artists, Fifty Years was organized by Mark Rosenthal, guest curator, with Marla Prather, curator, Ian Alteveer, assistant curator, and Rebecca Lowery, research assistant, in the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art at The Met. (Photos courtesy Don Pollard/The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Multicultural Audience Development Initiative reflects the Museum’s founding mission to educate and inspire by reaching out to all of its constituencies, including the many diverse communities that comprise the tri-state area. Its objectives are to heighten awareness of the Museum’s programs and collections, to increase participation in its activities and to diversity its visitorship and Membership.
Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.