Andy Warhol's Icons

Andy Warhol's Icons

LONDON’S HALCYON GALLERY CELEBRATES THE VISUAL GENIUS OF ANDY WARHOL WITH A SOLO SHOW FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME

LONDON’S HALCYON GALLERY CELEBRATES THE VISUAL GENIUS OF ANDY WARHOL WITH A SOLO SHOW FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME

Text: Tania Farouki

He was famed for his peculiar aphorisms (“Art is what you can get away with”) and predictions (“In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes”), and idolized for his eclectic encounters and entourage (Halston, Bianca, Paloma, Edie, Jean-Michel et al). He was heralded for making his sitters bloom thanks to unorthodox color combinations through the canvas, was highly admired for his cunning marketable skills, and remains a multifaceted icon to write about (Bob Colacello’s Holy Terror is by far one of the most phenomenal and acute accounts of the artist). You get the picture: Andy Warhol will never cease to fascinate.

Following in the footsteps of Rauschenberg and Johns, the now proclaimed ‘King of Pop Art’ will always remain a most enthralling subject of debate. But, as they say, art is subjective—and yet the market can’t get enough. Notorious for his equal obsession with mass consumption and commissions alike, Andy Warhol is still one of the most relevant artists of today.

For the first time since its inception in 1982, the Halcyon Gallery in London has dedicated an entire show of more than 100 works devoted to Warhol. A miniature retrospective if you will, the exhibition presents pieces from the artist’s debut as an illustrator to print doyen, while also displaying some never-before-seen works. With its one-of-a-kind displays (cubes of Marilyn are involved), the gallery’s Art Director Kate Brown talks to V about the curation process, Warhol’s enduring appeal and getting to work with explosions of color.

This is Halcyon Gallery’s first solo show of Andy Warhol. Why decide to do so at this specific moment in time?

KATE BROWN We have been amassing a significant collection of over 100 works by Warhol for the past three years–collecting portfolios and key works that are in pristine condition and with impeccable provenance. It is a long process, takes time, careful consideration, a lot of hard work and love to put something of this scale together. The works came from all over the world.

Were there any pieces difficult to get a hold of?

KB Yes, all great art is hard to acquire. It’s not just the quality of the condition of each piece. This is a particularly complex process when dealing with the original paintings. We also ensure that all the research and due diligence are prepared along with certifications before we acquire the works, which can be a lengthy process. The Anatom (Rado Watches) for instance, is possibly one of the last works Warhol ever painted, being completed in early 1987 before his untimely death on February 22nd. It has not been seen in the public since its conception.

Where are most of the pieces from? Did any collection belong to personalities who were part of Andy's circle?

​KB The collection is from a diverse number of places and people. The Mao portfolio (1972) for example was acquired from a private collector who had spent many years lovingly acquiring the full set of 10 with each piece in immaculate condition. We also acquired a spectacular collage work on paper, Self Portrait in Fright Wig—this haunting but sensational image was one of five known works Warhol completed in this series in 1986.

In your view, what is so unique about this exhibition?

​KB The breadth of the exhibition: from his early illustrative works of the 1950s, like Tattooed Woman Holding Rose (1955)which Warhol effectively used as his business card—through to the iconic works of the late 1980s, the exhibition touches most elements of Warhol’s entire career and gives viewers the opportunity to see original works on canvas, paper and some of his most important portfolios. When you encounter such a spectrum of an artist’s career you can really see how Warhol’s influence has spanned across so many disciplines.

What do you think makes Andy Warhol's work so fascinating and relevant at the same time?

​KB His works explore the relationship between artistic expression, celebrity culture and advertisement, which are very much key themes in today’s times. Andy Warhol is even more relevant today than he was during his lifetime–he truly recognised the power of the brand. He also understood the art of commissioning and he loved that people could buy his work. He has become one of the most influential people on contemporary artists of every discipline and as the world expands so does the appeal of Andy Warhol, with museum exhibitions concentrating on his work from Korea, New York, Singapore to Paris, London, etc. Major brands today still want the endorsement and image of Andy Warhol on their products. His influence is clearly stronger today than it has ever been.

Are all pieces for sale? Has there been an increase in demand for Andy Warhol pieces?

​KB Many of the works have already been acquired but yes the exhibition works are for sale. The demand for Warhol’s artwork continues to grow and remains one of the strongest performers at auction, in private sales, and as a highlight of global museum programs. We work with museums regularly in loaning works across both the graphics and originals. The graphics are now a key element in any major Andy Warhol exhibition, and we continue to do tremendous amounts of research discovering new people and new stories relating to Warhol, some of which you can discover at this wonderful show.

Which pieces do you think are representative of his best work? Are some more popular than others amongst collectors?

​KB So many of Warhol’s works can now be heralded as iconic, whether it’s the portraits of movie stars such as Marilyn (1967), the Chanel No 5 bottle from the Ads portfolio (1985), or the seminal Campbell’s Soup I portfolio (1968) or Campbell’s Soup Box: Chicken Soup (1986). Some of the works in this exhibition have never been seen before and we hope to highlight many lesser known works such as The Details of Renaissance Paintings (1984)–of which the Botticelli works are also hanging in the Victoria & Albert’s museum exhibition “Botticelli Reimagined”.

How did the curation go about?

​KB We conceived the idea for the Campbell’s Soup I installation as really the beginning of the exhibition; it echoes and pays homage to Warhol’s first exhibition with Irving Blum in 1962, for which he created his famous soup can paintings displayed in the gallery to represent the supermarket shelves on which the soup cans were stored. We dedicated the entire mezzanine space in the gallery to the influence of Campbell’s Soups showing rarely seen sculptural Campbell’s Soup Boxes (1986) and smaller original paintings.

What did you hope to achieve visually speaking?

​KB A visual experience! I think Warhol was a genius with colour. For example, he really understood how to make black black as seen in the unique trial proof edition of the Myths portfolio (1981) we have displayed. The exhibition covers work from the 50s starting with his blotted line technique through to the crisp screen printing of the Campbell’s Soup I to the more flamboyant portfolios and experimental screen print paintings of the late 1980s.

Which particular works get to show a side of Andy that perhaps was surprising as you started putting artworks together? 

​KB When you put the whole collection together, it literally is an explosion of color, form and ideas. To see people of all ages come through the door of the gallery with their phones and cameras madly taking photos as Andy did with his camera back then is, I imagine, exactly what he would have wanted. And with social media transmitting those images to millions more people, the impact just grows. Another celebration of the ‘mass effect’.

What do you hope to achieve with this exhibition?

​KB Halcyon Gallery’s ethos has always been to have a very open door policy and to create inventive and academic displays for exhibitions. It has always been of paramount importance that people come to the gallery and learn something about the artists. And with this exhibition we hope they experience the visual genius of Andy Warhol.

WARHOL ICONS is on view now at the Halcyon Gallery in London through May 15. Learn more about the exhibition here.

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