In the sheer prolificacy of his creative output, Warhol’s legacy
extends far beyond the realms of painting and film, and permeates an array of
artistic and social areas. At various stages in his career he was a commercial
artist, book illustrator, music producer; he founded a lifestyle magazine,
‘Interview’, still in circulation today, and launched his own TV show in the late
1970s (well before MTV), with which he managed to capture the spirit of punk and
new wave. As a result, Warhol ended up simultaneously becoming the darling of
high art and mass taste, auctions and subculture. This exhibition and the
accompanying programme of events lift the veil on the entire spectrum of Andy
Warhol’s work, which has permanently altered our understanding of art.
For the first time, the Museum Brandhorst is presenting its entire collection of
works by Andy Warhol in one go to mark ‘Yes!Yes!Yes! Warholmania in Munich’.
With well over 100 works, the Museum Brandhorst boasts one of the most
important Warhol collections in the world. In a series of rooms arranged both
chronologically and by theme, the exhibition traces the key developments in his
work. Starting with drawings and book illustrations from the 1950s and ending in
the 1980s with his late work in diverse media, ‘Yes!Yes!Yes! Warholmania in
Munich’ is retrospective in character.
Warhol’s early drawings, which are shaped by his experience as a commercial
artist, are presented alongside a selection of artist books from the same period,
made in his capacity as a budding fine artist rather than a commercial one.
Warhol’s ‘Liz’ (1964) and ‘Portfolio Marilyn’ (1967), his iconic pictures of the 1960s,
reveal his lifelong fascination with the glitter and glamour of the celebrity cult – but
also its dark underbelly. His fascination for the latter can be inferred by the timing
of the work’s creation: he only decided to make his first ‘Marilyn’, for example,
after she had committed suicide.
This aspect of his work comes to the fore in the ‘Death and Disaster’ series, of
which the Museum Brandhorst has an outstanding example in ‘Mustard Race Riot’
(1963). Media images of the race riots in Birmingham, Alabama were arranged in
sequence on the monochrome canvas.
Warhol revolutionized the medium of painting by using images culled from
advertising and magazines as subjects for his paintings. The pivotal moment in this
development was Warhol’s pioneering use of the silkscreen printing process in the
early 1960s, which profoundly undermined the hitherto clear distinction between
high art and commercial art, not to mention the question of original versus copy.
This technical innovation marked the start of a period of great experimentation in
Warhol’s work that would continue into the 1970s. This experimentation is evident
in the elaborately collaged silkscreen prints of the ‘Ladies and Gentlemen’ series
(1975), based on source images of transvestites taken by Warhol himself. Their
faces, reproduced using the mechanical silkscreen process, are highlighted by
shreds of brightly coloured paper ripped-out by hand, which roughly correspond to
sections of the faces. The incongruity of the abstract and figurative forms gives rise
to oversized mouths and near-grotesque eyes, and emphasizes the masquerade of
life as a transvestite. In their fixation on the artificiality of appearance, the
transvestites were for Warhol icons of the time, actors in an abyssal role play that
knew no end, and which, unlike that of the stars they were so keen to impersonate,
could only be played out at the very fringes of society.
The exhibition takes a special look at Warhol’s artistic treatment of abstraction.
The way he approached abstraction was always in clear contrast to the Abstract
Expressionists, the generation of artists immediately before him. A whole room is
dedicated to his ‘Shadow Paintings’ of the late 1970s – dark and seductive images
of shadows cast by undefinable objects that take his desire to ‘empty’ his canvases
of signs to the extreme. The ‘Camouflage Paintings’ (1986) and giant ‘Oxidation
Painting’ (1978), in which he ironizes the Abstract Expressionists’ credo of the
gesture being an extension of the artist’s inner self, are displayed in the context of
Warhol’s expanded artistic practice of the late 1970s and early 1980s. During this
period, Warhol had risen to become the ‘court painter’ of the art and fashion world,
and he pointedly marketed his star portraits to win possible new commissions. The
portraits of (more or less important) figures of his time – for example art dealer
Pat Hearn – are a testament to his fascination with the phenomenon of celebrity, as
are the groundbreaking television broadcasts from the years 1979 to 1987, which
are also shown here in part. Especially in these two groups of works, his
fascination and obsession with surface, appearance, and self-stylization can be
most acutely perceived and is reflected in the ironic, expressive gestures of the
large-canvas paintings of his later years.
The show also features ‘Lupe’ (1965), a two-channel film projection that revolves
around one of Warhol’s muses: Edie Sedgwick in the role of Mexican actress Lupe
Vélez. Vélez was a flamboyant Hollywood actress of the 1930s and 1940s who took
her own life at the age of 36 while pregnant. As with his portraits of Marilyn
Monroe, what attracted Warhol to Vélez in his film ‘Lupe’ was not just her star
persona, but also her life story, which culminated in the tragic image of her
suicide. This dark side to Andy Warhol’s art also forms the conceptual backdrop for
the collection display ‘Dark Pop’, which traces Warhol’s pivotal position in the
history of Pop Art and Neo-Pop, on the entrance level of Museum Brandhorst.
The museum is handing over its small media room to Glenn O’Brien, one-time
close assistant and colleague of Andy Warhol. O’Brien, former member of Warhol’s
‘Factory’ and first editor of ‘Interview’, started his own TV show on a public-access
cable channel in 1978, just before Andy Warhol launched his own show. ‘Glenn
O’Brien’s TV Party’ ran until 1982 and was conceived in the traditional mode of a
late-night talk show, complete with studio band and guests. Snippets from selected
shows will be screened in the museum. In addition to its list of illustrious guests –
including David Bowie, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Iggy Pop, and Steven Meisel – the
allure of ‘TV Party’ was down to its breaking of countless TV conventions. People
were seen smoking joints in front of the camera, the live performances usually had
a very improvised feel, and the show itself was clearly anything but scripted.
Nevertheless, or perhaps precisely because of this fact, the broadcast achieved
something entirely new. It reached a large audience – one otherwise beyond its
creators’ grasp – with a wilfully subversive television format that simultaneously
fundamentally broadened the public’s understanding of art. As such, O’Brien’s
programme shared many key ideas with Warhol’s own approach.
On the night of the exhibition opening (27 June 2015), six episodes of ‘Glenn
O’Brien’s TV Party’ will be broadcast in succession, starting at midnight on ARDalpha,
featuring scenes and short interviews from the opening at Museum
Brandhorst. (More details are available at: www.br.de and www.museumbrandhorst.de)
Parallel to the Museum Brandhorst’s showing of Warhol’s paintings, drawings, and
television broadcasts, Glenn O’Brien and German author Katja Eichinger will be
presenting a retrospective selection of Warhol’s films. The screenings will be
shown as part of the Munich International Film Festival (25 June–4 July 2015), in
association with the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. And, in addition, a
separate film series will trace Warhol’s influence as a filmmaker on later
generations of directors, like Sofia Coppola and Harmony Korine. (For more
information visit: http://www.filmfest-muenchen.de/de/festival/filmfest-
Curators: Achim Hochdörfer, Patrizia Dander