Winter of Warhol

Tracing Andy Warhol’s deep Aspen connections as Aspen Art Museum and Powers Art Center open shows

With two major Andy Warhol museum exhibitions and a season of deep-diving Warhol events and art workshops ahead, 2021-22 is the winter of Warhol in Aspen.

It starts this week with “Andy Warhol: Lifetimes” at the Aspen Art Museum, opening Friday, on the heels of “Warhol in Colorado” at the Powers Art Center in Carbondale.

Paired together, the shows offer a groundbreaking look at the life and work of the most popular artist of the 20th century, as well as an opportunity to dig deeper into his relationship with Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley.


The Aspen Art Museum organized its show, including more than 200 Warhol works, with the Tate Modern and Museum Ludwig, Cologne in collaboration with the Art Gallery of Ontario, which hosted earlier iterations of this career-spanning survey survey.

It aims to examine Warhol’s life in parallel with his art. Artist Monica Majoli worked with the museum to re-conceptualize the exhibition and promises to break new ground with a deep look at Warhol’s identity as a queer artists and an outsider.

As museum director Nicola Lees put it when the show was announced, the exhibition “peers into the spectral persona that the artist created so he could transcend his personal limitations, generating a cultural myth, mirror and decoder that has enchanted the modern world for decades.”

It is taking over the entire museum — though Precious Okoyomon’s garden installation remains on the rooftop, where a new restaurant concept also debuts this weekend — with six major themes. The “After and Before” section is its centerpiece, a biographical exhibition showcasing archival materials alongside some of Warhol’s signature works including Elvises, Marilyn Monroes, Jackie Kennedy and Campbell Soup Cans and Flowers. Others include “Exploding Plastic Inevitable,” which uses projection video to place the viewer inside of Warhol’s live events at The Factory including music by the Velvet Underground and Nico.

At “Warhol Wednesdays” workshops, kids and families are invited to make Warhol-inspired art with a museum educator. And at “Soup Can Saturdays,” grown-ups can make Warhol-inspired pieces led by museum educators and special guest artists. Both events are free and run through the end of March 2022.


The Powers Art Center show is a day-trip-worthy exhibition sharing pieces from the legendary collection of John and Kimiko Powers.


What: ‘Andy Warhol: Lifetimes’

Where: Aspen Art Museum

When: Through March 27

How much: Free

More info:

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What: ‘Warhol in Colorado’

Where: Powers Art Center, Carbondale

When: Through Oct. 15, 2022

How much: Free

More info:

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What: ‘Museum Confidential Live: Why Warhol Persists’

Where: Aspen Art Museum

When: Saturday, Dec. 4, 2 p.m.

How much: Free, registration required

More info: Podcast host Jeff Martin, museum director Nicola Lees, exhibition curator Monica Majoli and assistant curator Simone Krug will discuss the exhibition;

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What: ‘Warhol Wednesdays’

Where: The Factory at Aspen Art Museum

When: Dec. 8 through March 23, 3-4:30 p.m.

How much: Free, first come first served

More info: Workshops aimed at kids and families;

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What: ‘Soup Can Saturdays’

Where: The Factory at Aspen Art Museum

When: Select Saturdays Dec. 11 through March 26, 2-4 p.m.

How much: Free, registration required

More info: Free art workshops for adults;

The pair championed and collected Warhol from his early days in Pop art, and Kimiko was subject of one of his best-known society portraits from 1972 (he would go on to make 25).

The Powerses hosted Warhol frequently, helped him purchase land in Missouri Heights and even, in the winter before Warhol’s untimely death, helped Warhol get an official Colorado cattle brand: his personally designed “A/W” brand was approved by the state cattle commission shortly before Warhol’s died in 1987.

“Now you need a cow or a horse to put your brand on,” John Powers wrote to Warhol on Feb. 20, 1987. The letter is included in the voluminous private research database maintained by Warhol biographer Blake Gopnik, uncovered during his research for “Warhol” (2020).

Warhol’s relationship with Aspen went back three decades to his earliest days as an exhibiting artist. While he was still an ad man in New York, he had a show at in the Four Seasons Club in Aspen during the winter of 1956-57, which merited a short notice in The Aspen Times.

“It’s almost certainly Warhol’s first show of any kind outside New York. … There’s almost nothing known about it,” Gopnik said in an interview. “It was a show of Warhol’s early blotted line drawings that a friend in Aspen seems to have toured across the west. It did incredibly badly.”

The only piece believed to have sold in the show went to Aspen Ski Corp. co-founder and Aspen city mother Elizabeth Paepcke, according to records Gopnik found in his research. The Paepckes had championed Bauhaus artists, contemporary art and the “Aspen idea” in the postwar years as they remade Aspen as a resort and utopia.

“Warhol must have been very happy to have work in the Paepcke collection,” Gopnik concluded.

As his star rose in the art world, Warhol remained engaged here. He designed the December 1966 edition of Aspen, the bi-monthly magazine in a box edited by part-time Aspenite Phyllis Johnson. That issue included a 12-card collection of Pop and Op art paintings from the Powers collection, including Warhol’s “200 Campbell Soup Cans,” with commentary from Powers.

“Some more militant friends declare, ‘You idiot! Right now Andy Warhol is sitting at home laughing at you and how he’s put one over on you,'” Powers wrote of the controversial soup can work and Warhol’s use of automation. “Well I hope Andy is having a lot of enjoyment over this for whatever reason, because it’s not his motive that really concerns me, but rather my own satisfaction. I feel, however, that Andy is quite serious and sincere.”

Warhol also had a solo show at the Pitkin County Library in summer 1970, under the auspices of the short-lived Aspen Center for Contemporary Art, showing Marilyn Monroe and Flowers pieces, as reported by former Aspen Art Museum director Dean Sobel in his book “One Hour Ahead: The Avant-Garde in Aspen, 1945-2004” (2004).

Warhol’s work was also included in 1979’s landmark “American Portraits of the ’60s and ’70s,” the first exhibition at the Aspen Art Museum (then known as the Aspen Center for Visual Arts). Museum curator David Floria also brought his touring show “Warhol in the ’80s” to Aspen in 1984, a period when Warhol was a frequent Aspen visitor.

His journals detail New Year’s Eve visits to Aspen, a trip snowmobiling up the Maroon Creek Valley, skiing Panda Peak and party-hopping with celebs like Jack Nicholson, John Denver, Anjelica Huston, Barry Diller, Diana Ross, Don Johnson, Sonny Bono and John Oates.

One local legend genuinely won Warhol over, according to his diaries. On New Year’s Eve 1984, Warhol visited Elizabeth Paepcke — 28 years on from that first art sale in Aspen when he was an unknown — and declared in his diary: “Met the Dowager of Aspen, the Grand Dame.”

He visited her at her West End home overlooking Hallam Lake, noting with glee her nickname (“Pussy”), her “immaculate house,” her fondness for ginseng tea and her spryness.

“She’s 82 and she’s very beautiful,” Warhol wrote, “she looks like Katharine Hepburn.”