'Andy Warhol' Review - Tate Modern

12th March – 15th November 2020

Standard Tickets - £22

Tate Collective - £5

View Here

Image taken by editor of the exhibition's programme

To visit ‘Andy Warhol’ at the Tate Modern is an opportunity to view some of the artist’s most iconic works in the flesh, including his 1962 screen prints of Marilyn Monroe, her citric yellow hair and crimson lips appear startlingly vibrant when one is used to witnessing them in lacklustre form on tote bags.

Throughout the 12 rooms, curated in a chronological style, one simultaneously witnesses the development of Warhol’s artistic style and the evolution of his person. Warhol evolves from the 21 year old who left Pennsylvania, and his Slovakian parents, behind to attend art school in New York, to the notorious artist, most well known for heading the ‘Pop Art’ movement in the 60s. He would late die from heart failure in 1987, at the age of 58. As one traverses the third floor of the Tate Modern, one assumes the role of voyeur, mirroring Warhol’s own apparent tendency to occupy this role; a role which influenced the sexual nature of much of his work, often exhibiting the nude male form.[if gte vml 1]><v:shape id="_x0000_s1033" type="#_x0000_t75" style='position:absolute;left:0; text-align:left;margin-left:141.35pt;margin-top:13.25pt;width:198.15pt; height:239.05pt;z-index:251661312;visibility:visible;mso-wrap-style:square; mso-wrap-distance-left:12pt;mso-wrap-distance-top:12pt; mso-wrap-distance-right:12pt;mso-wrap-distance-bottom:12pt; mso-position-horizontal:absolute;mso-position-horizontal-relative:margin; mso-position-vertical:absolute;mso-position-vertical-relative:line' wrapcoords="0 -5 0 21592 21596 21592 21596 -5 0 -5" strokeweight="1pt"> <v:stroke miterlimit="4"></v:stroke> <v:imagedata src="file:////Users/godelievedebree/Library/Group%20Containers/UBF8T346G9.Office/msoclip1/01/clip_image004.png" o:title=""></v:imagedata> <w:wrap type="through" anchorx="margin" anchory="line"></w:wrap> </v:shape><![endif][if !vml][endif]

The representation of queer identity is placed at the forefront of the exhibition. Although Warhol did not specifically partake in the gay rights movement of the 60s, he was indeed a gay man, creating queer art during a time in which sodomy was illegal in the United States. In the second room of the exhibition, Warhol’s film Sleep plays, featuring his then-lover, John Giorno. Although Warhol was often criticised for being too ‘swish’ or, in other words, camp, Giorno states that Warhol ‘got round’ the homophobia of society by making queer relationships into abstract art, where the viewer could presumably view them at a safe distance. Although the muses of Warhol’s pop art screen prints are often huge stars, both famous and infamous, rather than those with whom he shared personal relationships, a message of acceptance and inclusivity lies beneath. Warhol stated that the process of creating pop art was ‘being like a machine’, going on to say: ‘everybody should be a machine’ because they lack the ability to hold prejudices and that this would mean that ‘everybody should like everybody’.

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In 1965, Warhol converted to film making. During this time, he founded a creative space known as ‘The Factory’, so called due to its lustrous silver walls. Here, Warhol would make films of those who spent time at the Factory and whom he called his ‘superstars’. At Warhol’s 1965 art exhibition in Philadelphia, the Factory was so crowded that art had to be removed from the walls. Speaking of this time, Warhol supposedly recalled: ‘We weren’t just at the art exhibit. We were the art exhibit’. Warhol had succeeded in created notoriety not only for his art, but also for himself. Three years later however, in 1968, Warhol was shot by one of his former ‘superstars’, Valeria Solanas, who accused him of stealing her ideas. He was pronounced dead but was resuscitated, although part of his soul had escaped him; he returned with a new reticence and nervous disposition, visible in his ‘fright wig’ self-portraits, depicting a raw version of himself as man affected by life.

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Warhol’s return to pop art in the 70s included a series entitled Ladies and Gentlemen (1975), featuring black and Latinx drag queens. He printed their images, adding to them with expressive brush marks and finger painting to demonstrate their individual, exuberant personalities. This series included a painting of Marsha P. Johnson, a black drag queen known for her militant activism in both the gay rights and the civil rights movements of the 1960s.

After passing a cabinet encasing three of Warhol’s wigs (one could momentarily mistake Warhol’s for a taxidermy exhibition), the final room appears. Inside appropriately hangs Sixty Last Suppers (1986) based on Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper. In Warhol’s version, created only one year before the artist’s death, the focus is on the collective interaction between men, symbolic of Warhol’s both implicit and explicit promotion of liberalism and fluidity that featured in his art throughout his entire career.

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