September 2018 | Aurora Garrison
New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art is planning the city’s first U.S. retrospective of Andy Warhol in almost 30 years. This November, the Whitney will utilize its eight-story building to showcase Warhol’s artistic production: from his beginnings as a commercial illustrator in the 1950s, to his iconic Pop artworks of the early 1960s, to the experimental work in film and other alternative mediums from the 1960s and ’70s, to his progressive use of readymade abstraction in the 1980s.
The exhibition seeks to prove that the artist did not cease his workflow after surviving the assassination by Valerie Solanas in 1968, but rather entered a period of increased innovation and productivity. That being said, the show provides more than 350 works of art by Warhol (many assembled together for the first time) and reveal the subtle similarities in his work – repetitions, tight compositions, bold colors and recycled images from popular culture – that remain constant in the enormous collection.
In anticipation of the upcoming exhibition, the museum hosted a party in honor of Warhol’s ninetieth birthday, which was attended by more than three thousand people. To commemorate the pop icon, guests donned Warhol-inspired costumes from bananas and flowers to Basquiat look-alikes.
To set the scene for the momentous occasion, the museum played Velvet Underground’s “There She Goes Again” and gave out commemorative tote bags (screen printed live at the museum) with quotes like “The idea of America is theoretically so great.”
Donna De Salvo, the retrospective’s curator originally met Warhol in 1986 when she was a curator at the Dia Art Foundation and had already put on two exhibitions of his work. De Salvo describes that “…[she] was interested in the work he’d made before he started to silk-screen, the more hand-painted things,” she said. “They’re more fey; there are drawings that are overtly homoerotic.”
The retrospective will showcase drawings such as these, ones he made for Truman Capote, and ones depicting men’s feet. Also shown in the exhibition will be rarely seen drawings of Warhol’s from an art-making event called “Swish, Sketch, Drag,” in which dozens of artists encircle a catwalk and quickly sketch the drag performers as they walk across the platform.
By appropriating everyday consumer goods and cultural images and claiming them as high art, Warhol raised controversial questions of originality and artistic merit that are still debated today. In the end, his art and art works are original and revolutionary because he conceived the idea of them and ultimately iconized the colorful and transitional culture of the late twentieth century.
After its run in New York, the Warhol retrospective will travel to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in Spring 2019 and the Art Institute of Chicago in Fall 2019.