Sex, drag & 50 Marylin Monroes the Tate provides an inspiring glance into Warhol's work and life.
In typical circumstances, the notion of an online art exhibition seems strange and unnecessary, yet in our current unprecedented times museum curators have been forced to re-design exhibitions specifically for online viewing. One of the most highly anticipated exhibitions of the year is the ‘Andy Warhol Through The Ages’ exhibition at the Tate Modern gallery in London. As the first Warhol exhibition at the Tate in almost 20 years, it features various artwork from Warhol’s lifetime, ranging from his iconic pop art to his more experimental works.
Andy Warhol began his career as a commercial artist; during the 1950s he became an award-winning illustrator working for big-time brands like Columbia Records, Tiffany & Co. and Vogue just to name a few. In 1960 Warhol focussed on the pop art movement creating some of the most well-known artworks of the 20th century, arguably these would include Black Bean (1968), and the Marilyn collection produced in 1967. On June 3rd 1968, Warhol experienced a near-fatal shooting which left him physically and emotionally scarred, this event had a significant impact on his work as demonstrated in the artwork shown in the exhibition. Despite this Warhol continued to expand his creative interests within the film and publishing industries, becoming an important figure in New York’s social scene.
Curators Gregor Muir and Fiontán Moran have chosen to examine Andy Warhol’s life and career taking three key factors into consideration: his immigrant story, his LGBTQ+ identity and his concerns with death and religion. By exploring Warhol’s life in twelve parts, from his parent’s immigration to America to his death in 1987, the exhibition successfully highlights the fears and desires represented in his work. Through this process, as shown in the exhibition video, we find that this incredibly talented man was deeply affected by issues which continue to affect people in 2020. Originally named Andy Warhola he chose to change his name to Warhol to fit in with the New York art scene. He became obsessed with body image, frequently wearing wigs and various cosmetics — Warhol’s signature look featured his silver-grey wig. Before homosexuality was legalised in New York in 1980, Warhol expressed his own homosexuality in various collections and mediums which typically received negative criticism. Yet this did not deter Warhol from creating more LGBTQ+ inspired artwork. One particularly significant collection on display in the Tate Modern exhibition is Warhol’s Ladies & Gentlemen (1975) collection, which presents Black and Latinx drag queens and trans women. The exhibition highlights Warhol’s unrelenting support of the black and LGBTQ+ communities, providing a leading example for our generation.
This exhibition is a perfect demonstration of the power of art; simultaneously art can act as a vehicle for the expression of thought and emotion as well as propelling social injustices to the forefront of national importance. It is a great shame that this exhibition is predominantly only available online, seeing and contemplating artwork through a screen lacks the awe-inspiring effect that you experience in person. Aside from Warhol’s support of minority groups, curator Fiontán Moran highlights a key lesson to learn from Andy Warhol’s life and career: “despite all of his insecurities [Warhol] tried to be himself”.
The Andy Warhol exhibition is available via The Tate Gallery website.