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Gene Chat: Three Artists' Take on the Iconic Image of Marilyn Monroe

For this week’s Gene Chat, we’re taking you from Andy Warhol’s iconic Marilyn 31 (1967) to Banksy’s Kate Moss (2005).

What do we mean by Genome Connection? The Art Genome Project is Artsy’s search technology and allows users to navigate between related artworks and artists on our website and app. The Project creates categories for artists and artworks around styles and art movements, content, concepts, and visual attributes. We’ve taken the basic questions you might ask about a work of art (What is it? Who made it? When was it made? What’s in it? What is made out of? What’s it about?) and created and organized over 1,000 categories to help us answer those questions more fully.

Artists and artworks have been connected to a number of these categories (which we refer to internally as "genes”) and a Genome Connection, as we’ll discuss, highlights attributes that two or more artworks or artists share. One easy way to see how artists and artworks are connected is through the Related Artwork search results on the bottom of an artwork page. For example, to the right is a screenshot of the related artworks of Banksy's Kate Moss.  

So let’s take these three artworks. Some of the categories (or genes) we can use to describe and relate them are:

                            Individual Portrait

                            Celebrity  

                            Appropriation

                            Pop Culture

                            Bright/Vivid

                            Repetition

                            Pop Art

                            Contemporary Pop

In the 1960s American Pop Artist Andy Warhol developed his style of ‘mass-produced’ portraiture (different versions of the same repeated image) used in his screen-printed portraits of celebrities including Jackie Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, and Elvis Presley. The act of appropriating (taking for one’s own use often without asking for permission) a celebrity’s already circulated image continues through contemporary photographer David La Chappelle’s 2005 photograph which distorts Warhol’s original image of Marilyn by casting celebrity transsexual Amanda Lapore as his subject. This particular connection is continued with Banksy’s version of Warhol’s Marilyn, which employs the image of model Kate Moss in the same style as Warhol’s original.  

Warhol’s Marilyn (and the several versions of it Warhol created) effectively showed how the circulation of images of a celebrity can actually commodify and seem to erase that person’s individuality (Who is Marilyn Monroe if not the image of Marilyn Monroe?) Banksy and LaChapelle emphasize this dehumanizing effect by representing other public figures in the style of Marilyn Monroe, parodying or mimicking her public image.

Stay tuned for our next Genome Connection. To learn more about The Art Genome Project visit our About page or explore some of our featured categories on Browse.

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