Major Warhol Works Head to Beijing’s M WOODS Museum

Isaac Kaplan
Apr 20, 2016 12:39AM

Beijing’s M WOODS. Photo courtesy of M WOODS.

A monographic exhibition dedicated to Andy Warhol, featuring a number of works that have never been displayed in China, will open at Beijing private museum M WOODS on August 6th. Bringing together installations, film, and photography, “Andy Warhol: Contact,” which will run until January 7th, marks one of the rare times the artist has received a major exhibition in China’s capital and fills a distinct void. “Warhol’s work feels more relevant than ever, and this is as true in China as it is everywhere else,” M WOODS co-founder Michael Xufu Huang told Artsy.

The M WOODS exhibition, curated by director Presca Ahn, will shed light on Warhol’s diverse oeuvre, highlighting the artist’s deep and groundbreaking engagement with portraiture. Among the works debuting in the country is Warhol’s 1963 film Kiss—a work that features a succession of couples intimately locking lips. Warhol’s famous Screen Tests will also be making their inaugural appearance in China. The silent film portraits made during the 1960s are among Warhol’s most well-known—and star-studded—video pieces, featuring the figures who were regulars at the glitzy Factory nightclub (Bob Dylan, Edie Sedgwick, and Marcel Duchamp among them).

Floating above the Polaroid shots of himself and others that Warhol took during the ’80s and throughout the gallery space will be the balloons of Silver Clouds (1966), the crowd-pleasing interactive installation first shown at Leo Castelli Gallery in the mid-1960s. Warhol’s screen-printed wallpapers Cow (1966) and Self-portrait (1978) will also coat the space. Asked for his thoughts over email, Eric Shiner, director of the Warhol Museum—which is not collaborating with M WOODS for this show—notes that the exhibition is poised to capture the artist’s penchant for “aesthetic overload,” calling “Contact” a hopefully “fun, upbeat installation that will invite selfies and increase interest in Warhol among the young hip things of Beijing.”

Indeed, Warhol’s practice makes him something of a harbinger of the digital age. From his ready embrace of mass production, to his “15 minute” understanding of media fame, to his pervasive photographing of himself and his friends that would be well suited for Instagram, the artist’s work seems to speak to this contemporary moment. Still, his work hasn’t found much of a home in mainland China, a state of affairs that Shiner believes is the result of a confluence of factors, including a lack of knowledge and interest, institutions not equipped to show the works safely, and the relatively recent boom in the art market. As museums mature in the country amid growing market and viewer demand, we may well see more of the the seminal 20th century artist’s work finding a warm reception in institutions. “There is a parallel between the new technologies Warhol used to make his work and the rapid proliferation of technology that you can see today in China,” said Huang.

Warhol’s monographic show is the first in a three-year series to be hosted by M WOODS. “His work has affected the practices of many artists working in China today, including those that we collect and support at M WOODS,” says Huang of the decision to kick off the exhibitions with Warhol. “His influence stretches beyond art into all aspects of popular culture.”

Isaac Kaplan

Cover image: Photo of Andy Warhol by Jack Mitchell, taken between 1966 and 1977. Image via Wikimedia Commons.