Warhol vs. 60 artists at the Met

I was disappointed by the Met’s Warhol exhibition. I’m not a fan of Warhol but I was hoping to see more interesting parallels with the selected contemporary artists. The 60 artists/50 years exhibition highlights commonalities in theme (eg. death, celebrity, the male body, newspapers). Avedon and Warhol were compared on their exploration of the celebrity theme, although unlike Warhol Avedon made detailed portraits. Richter was a better example, as his use of photography as a source material makes a more convincing common point. Deborah Kaas was an obvious choice, as she precisely replicated Warhol’s method. But these were the exceptions.

Warhol became (in)famous once his celebrity overshadowed his work. He started against a backdrop of abstract art dominated by Rothko and the like, so a painting of a soup can was a tremendous jump. His subjects matter was banal and his technique not expressionist, but it leads to the question of ready-made: why can’t that be art? (On that note see Jeff Koons’ Hoovers in the exhibition!) The Campbell’s soup cans were intended to spark criticism against mass production goods but despite the negative reaction Warhol refused to provide any explanation – did he have one? All the famous pieces from Warhol are there: the Marylin, Elvis, the soup can, Brillo soap pad etc… and an oxidation painting created with splashes of urine on wet copper paint.

One of the most amusing pieces in the exhibition is by Felix Gonzalez Torres. The visitor is invited to take a candy from a pile of candies, which is replenished daily. I looked suspiciously around me, and with clearance from the security guard took my candy! The exhibition’s most interesting Warhol parallel is with art as a business, comparing Warhol and Takashi Murakami (remember the Vuitton bags). For this Japanese artist, there is no distinction between art and commerce and art is not only for arts sake. Food for thought. The exhibition closes with Warhol’s silver clouds.

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