In his own words, entrepreneur, Ron Rivlin is “a bit of a Forrest Gump character.” However, there is nothing slow-witted or naive about him. On the contrary – the 41-year-old LA businessman, art gallery owner/collector and restauranteur, identifies with Gump’s self-made man success story through his curious ability to fall into projects by being in the right place at the right time.
ANDY WARHOL REVISITED showcases 120 rotating original prints, paintings and candid polaroids by the Pop Art master, opening in Toronto, July 1st to December 31st, 2015. The Exhibition takes place in a 4,200 square foot pop-up gallery space at 77 Bloor Street West and will coincide with TIFF, the Toronto International Film Festival during September.
Culled from Rivlin’s private collection from his Revolver Gallery in Los Angeles, it’s the largest Exhibition to showcase Warhol’s prodigious output of works ever to be shown in Canada. It follows on the heels of his very successful extended run in Vancouver of Warhol: A Different Kind of Love, earlier this year.
Designed in conjunction with Toronto’s award winning firm DesignAgency, the Warhol Revisited gallery space will be a multi-level showcase of art, design and interactive elements that will encourage visitors to not only see the art, but to experience it as well. Highlights include Warhol print wallpaper, a Warhol-inspired gift shop, and an elevated stage for hosting music and speaker events.
Hiply attired in a black suit wearing limited edition Andy Warhol Converse X Chuck Taylor sneakers, Rivlin’s circuitous story would in itself, make a fascinating memoir.
Toronto-born to “ex-hippy parents” (he is related to current Israeli President, Reuven Rivlin,) he left his Thornhill home at age 15, much to his parents’ dismay, to tag along touring with The Grateful Dead. Surfing and partying in LA, he soon found himself hungry and out of money but was able to convince the Canadian Consulate to get him to Vancouver, then worked his way across the country back to his parents’ home.
“I took first year Business at Western University when I was 19, but hated it, so I dropped out to pursue Social Sciences, ” admits Rivlin. “A good friend got me into electronic music and the rave scene and over the next two years I began organizing over 25 concerts in Montreal, Toronto and London.”
After a run-in with Montreal’s notorious Hell’s Angels over a disputed concert venue and losing all his savings, Rivlin retreated to his parent’s basement where he tapped into his vast network of contacts and created Coast II Coast, representing top hip-hop and electronic music artists. Within six months he was making enough money to open an office in LA as an agent for Redman, Run DMC and Method Man, among his stable of 100 clients.
“I eventually lost my interest in the music business, although I still retain a handful of clients including the amazing Israeli electronic band, Infected Mushroom,” says Rivlin. “I really just stumbled into the art world, buying my first Warhol, a signed Wayne Gretzky on December 14th, 2012, then two months later with 25 Warhol acquisitions, opened Revolver Gallery in 2013 (the name is an anagram from evolve and his transition from music arts into the visual arts.) But I always wanted a Mick Jagger,” laughs Rivlin gesturing to the aforementioned, now both part of the current Exhibition. “Collecting and selling Warhol is really my passion.”
From the 60s to the 80s, Andy Warhol worked out of a foil-draped studio in New York, he called The Factory in which a constant parade of provocateurs, models, drag queens, celebrities and hangers-on were in constant supply. In the 60s he produced underground films and created sculptures; co-founded Interview Magazine and designed and silk screened many album covers for rock stars including Debbie Harry’s band, Blondie and The Rolling Stones’ (then controversial,) Sticky Fingers. In 1968 a deranged playwright, Valerie Solanas made an attempt on his life, shooting and wounding Warhol.
Walking through ANDY WARHOL REVISITED with the down-to-earth Rivlin, he’s like a kid in a candy store; still enamored with the fascinating history and trivia behind each vibrantly colourful Warhol portrait.
“Jane Fonda (screenprint 1982) was my second Warhol purchase,” says Rivlin. Its been double-signed – once by Warhol and then ‘Peace Jane Fonda’ by the actress. Fonda asked Warhol for prints that she could sell at a fundraiser for her then-husband politician, Tom Hayden. The prints were delivered to the gala dinner for the biggest contributors and left on a table where guests just grabbed them and most were damaged. This one was the only one that remained in mint condition and I’ve never sold it,” Rivlin confides.
“Warhol loved to draw all kinds of shoes and in the 80s he created Diamond Dust Shoes, screenprinted and sprinkled with real diamond dust.”
“As a child, Warhol was very sick with a debilitating neurological disease (hence the need for wigs.) He spent a year in bed with nothing to do but read DC comic books, and movie magazines,“ Rivlin explains. “ That’s why he was completely obsessed with movie stars, fashion and cartoon characters whose imagery he translated much later into larger than life series of portraits like the iconic Marilyn, Liz Taylor, Elvis Presley, Howdy Doody and Superman. “
And of course, no Warhol Exhibition would be complete without the Campbell Soup Cans and Coca Cola portfolios. Warhol began his career as an illustrator for advertisements, and was always fascinated by the consumerism of the 60s and 70s. Ironically, he made the mundane desirable!
“Today, by value of transactions, Andy Warhol who died in 1987, after a gall bladder operation, is the most coveted, and collected artist in the world. Picasso ranks 2nd. Last year almost 1,300 Warhol works were sold for more than $653 million US at auction. Warhol’s Triple Elvis, executed in ink and silver paint in 1963 sold at Christie’s last year for $81.9 million,” says Rivlin.
With society’s current predilection towards reality shows, Warhol’s (attributed) quote at a photo shoot in the ‘60s that, “In the future everyone will have their 15 minutes of fame,” is chillingly prophetic. So much so that our pop-culture obsessed, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Internet – ruled lives will continue to ensure Warhol as a growing investment in the global art market.