Why another Warhol show?
Aspen Art Museum retrospective aims to find new understanding of the world’s most famous artist
IF YOU GO …
What: ‘Andy Warhol: Lifetimes’
Where: Aspen Art Museum
When: Through March 27
How much: Free
More info: aspenartmuseum.org
Andy Warhol may be the most popular and most exhibited artist on Earth. Some argue he’s become the most influential of the 20th century, overtaking Picasso – as biographer Blake Gopnik argues in “Warhol” (2020). There’s no shortage of Warhol museum shows, from specifically minded ones like the Catholicism-themed show now up at the Brooklyn Museum to major surveys like the Whitney Museum of American Art’s seemingly comprehensive 2018 show. And, of course, Warhol is a constant on the gallery and auction scene in the U.S. and beyond.
So as the Aspen Art Museum debuted its monumental, museum-wide “Andy Warhol: Lifetimes” in early December, it was worth asking, Why another Warhol show? Is there more to say right now?
In the days before the opening, I posed those questions to Warhol scholars and museum leaders.
My conclusion, for now, is that it’s a discussion worth having, and that Warhol made such an overwhelming amount of artwork and influenced so many spheres of pop and avant-garde culture that, yes, there’s value in showing his work and evaluating his life from every angle. And, based on my first few visits, the Aspen show with curator Monica Majoli’s touch, gives eye-opening new consideration to late work like the “Camouflage” and “Oxidation” series and his identity as a queer artist. Plus, of course, Warhol is fun and it’s thrilling to see crowds beyond the Aspen gallery regulars streaming into the museum.
The Aspen Art Museum has never, since its current building opened in 2014, devoted the entirety of its museum gallery space to a single artist. And the museum earned its global reputation for breaking new artists and for showcasing lesser-known aspects of established artists’ practices. So it’s a new kind of show for the museum and a curatorial trend worth watching.
It’s also probably the highest profile exhibition Aspen has ever landed, as the only U.S. stop of a show organized by the Aspen Art Museum with Tate Modern and Museum Ludwig, Cologne in collaboration with the Art Gallery of Ontario, where previous iterations have shown. It puts the eyes of the global art world on Aspen.
Here’s what others said on the question.
MONICA MAJOLI, ARTIST AND CURATOR OF “ANDY WARHOL: LIFETIMES”
“How do you create a kind of personal exhibition of an artist work that is otherwise thought of as almost anonymous, you know? In certain ways, Warhol is so large, and he’s been so dispersed throughout our culture for so many decades, he’s kind of disappeared. He’s very elusive. We hear his name every single day. We read his name every day. So it’s a very odd kind of project in a certain way. It’s almost like distilling something or sifting through things to find clarity. That’s what I was interested in.
I’ve seen Warhol shows that dealt with a specific part of his identity, but not the whole thing. And I thought that sort of comprehensive nature of the interests in Warhol’s biography was actually quite interesting. But I also didn’t want to reduce his work to his biography, so that was the challenge.”
BLAKE GOPNIK, AUTHOR OF “WARHOL” (2020)
“The thing about Warhol is that our readings keep changing. It’s kind of miraculous. He’s kind of a different artist every 10 years.
I think we’re also realizing how important his life is for his art and vice versa. … Warhol is very important as one of the figures who was instrumental in the kind of conceptual art that really tried to dissolve the barriers between life and art – Warhol is a central player in that movement in the 1960s. He understood that he could turn himself into a real work of avant-garde art that was more than just a metaphor, that it actually made sense in in our historical context.
The recognition of Andy in queer culture, I think, is also something that’s being recognized more and more and now being incorporated into the big retrospectives instead of being hived off into separate shows just about homosexuality.”
DEAN SOBEL, DENVER UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR AND AUTHOR OF “ONE HOUR AHEAD: THE AVANT-GARDE IN ASPEN, 1945-2004”
“I think there’s no question Warhol has been exhibited more than any artist. But it’s a big body of work and a complex body of work. And so I, I always support new scholarship and new ideas. I think there’s more, certainly more to say.
I believe he’s one of the great artists of Western civilization. But, yeah, I think it is an interesting choice and an interesting question. … He’s still a white male figure who has achieved a great deal of recognition. So a museum would need to balance what they’re doing with Warhol with the rest of their exhibition program. And I know that [the Aspen Art Museum] is doing that.”
NICOLA LEES, ASPEN ART MUSEUM DIRECTOR
“For us, it was also an opportunity to really celebrate an artist who loved coming to Aspen and participating in all the different facets of the culture. As well, it is a huge opportunity for us to work with these incredible museums.
[Warhol] is infinitely fascinating for me. I was so interested in how I was able to see Warhol from a different angle when I arrived in Aspen and learned about his connections.
Working with Monica Majoli has been really magical, working with an artist who has been able to really go in-depth and really create a whole other layer to the exhibitions and an incredible sense of intimacy.
And also with [Aspen Skiing Co’s] 75th anniversary I think it’s really exciting for us as a museum to see how this can help us build a new audience after a time when museums have been reconfiguring themselves in the pandemic. It’s really exciting for Aspen and for us.”
Read more of the Aspen Times coverage of this winter’s exhibitions and Andy Warhol’s history in Aspen, look for more throughout the winter:
* “In Aspen with Andy Warhol,” Dec. 2, Aspen Times Weekly
* “Warhol exhibition begins winter-long run at Aspen Art Museum,” Dec. 4, The Aspen Times
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