Tate Liverpool is hosting Transmitting Andy Warhol, the first solo exhibition in the North of the work of one of the most influential artists of the 20th Century. Alice Fleetwood took a look.
Anyone can be Andy Warholed these days. Your granny is as likely as Marilyn Monroe to be hung over your living flame fireplace looking all a-smudge in sexy pop lipstick. And that’s precisely what Andy Warhol would have wanted.
He worked by the principle that art is for everyone, so his is everywhere and has been for some 60 years. It’s a long time to remain famous, yet, despite the familiarity I expected as I wandered around this wide-ranging exhibition at Liverpool’s industrial Albert Dock, I felt as though I had just witnessed rock ‘n’ roll being invented.
Tate Liverpool is the first to host an exhibition in the North of England that represents the breadth of Warhol’s work. It is thoughtfully curated, positioning his drawings, paintings, illustrations, sculptures, films, record and magazine covers, so as to make you aware of his fascination with glamour, death and the everyday all at once. From any point in the main exhibition space, you gaze upon the domesticity of Warhol’s art, the Brillo Boxes sculpture, the Campbell’s Soup cans, the adverts of wobbling ice cream sundaes and in the same line of vision is the goddess of all women, Marilyn after Marilyn in multicolour glory fading to grey.
Chairman Mao cheerfully dominates two half walls opposite a double print of two out-of-focus Elvises (Elvi?), the god of all men, the end of the roll, no colour left. I worry that it will simply be a white canvas next time I see it, perhaps one that could have a ripe banana on it.
Andy Warhol, 1928-1987, Do it Yourself (Seascape) 1962 bpk / Nationalgalerie im Hamburger Bahnhof, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Sammlung Marx / Jochen Littkemann © 2014 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York and DACS, London
Warhol understood the power of image repetition. It is in his illustrations, those lovely, simply-drawn shoes repeated in every colour (Imelda Marcos’ wallpaper surely?) It is in his Maos and his Marilyns; his soups and his scourers; the two identical guns suggestively pointing to the dollar painting.
he Velvet Underground and Nico 1967 Album cover design by Andy Warhol. Collection of The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh. © 2014 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York and DACS, London
The most energetic repetitions are in his Exploding Plastic Inevitable film, cleverly projected onto four walls so you stand in the middle of the dark room and feel as though you are watching a live show behind two-way mirrors; an added thrill to the already erotically and electrically-charged films of the Velvet Underground and their entourage in full swing, so to speak.
Why is it important to see an exhibition of his work when we can so easily buy it – or a version of it – on a market stall at market stall prices? Seeing it all together, this long line of his work, allows you to understand his genius (there, I said it). He made art appeal and be available to everyone and his art symbolises post-war consumerism in a way no other artist achieved. So maybe he was a marketing genius, but still…a genius.
A whole afternoon is not enough; take the day off work and delight in the sheer rock ‘n’ roll-ness of it all.
Transmitting Andy Warhol is at the Tate Liverpool until 8 February 2015
@Aliceliverpool is a football-loving, vegetarian, birdwatching leftie but not a social worker as you might presume.