Art Institute pulls out all the stops for massive Andy Warhol retrospective

It’s the first major exhibit of the artist’s work in 30 years, encompassing all media that he worked in — from paintings to prints and film to TV, music and books.

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Andy Warhol. Self-Portrait, 1986. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; gift, Anne and Anthony d’Offay in honor of Thomas Krens. © 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Andy Warhol. Self-Portrait, 1986. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; gift, Anne and Anthony d’Offay in honor of Thomas Krens.

© 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

From Campbell soup cans to gritty car crashes, the work of Andy Warhol will be celebrated in a big way as The Art Institute of Chicago prepares to open a new, multi-faceted exhibition devoted to four decades of classic iconography from the eclectic pop artist.

Opening Friday and running through January 26, 2020, “Andy Warhol — From A to B and Back Again” is the first major retrospective to be organized by a U.S. institution in 30 years — and 32 years after the artist’s untimely death.

“The exhibition really encompasses all media that he worked in, from paintings to prints, film, TV, music and books,” says Jay Dandy, collection manager for the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art at The Art Institute of Chicago. The exhibition includes 400 pieces, some world-famous like Warhol’s “Silver Marlon” portrait of actor Marlon Brando, and some rarely seen, including one of the 600 time capsules Warhol assembled from everyday ephemera to document his life.

Warhol exhibit

‘ANDY WARHOL — FROM A TO B AND BACK AGAIN’

When: Oct. 20, 2019 -Jan. 26, 2020

Where: The Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan

Tickets: $25 general admission for adults ($19 for students/seniors/teens) plus $7 special exhibition fee

Information: artic.edu


“Visitors will get to see Warhol’s style back in his school days and the way Warhol transformed when he moved to New York City in late ‘40s to ‘50s to become a successful commercial illustrator [including pieces on display from his time on contract with the Israel Miller shoe company], and how that laid the foundation for what he would do as a pop artist in the ‘60s,” continues Dandy.

In addition to the classic paintings and prints such as “Triple Elvis,” The Art Institute of Chicago has also assembled some of the macabre “Death And Disaster” series from the early ‘60s that counteracted the glitz and glamour of celebrity life that Warhol admired. There are also pieces of the “Flowers” exhibition from 1965 in which Warhol famously declared he was retiring from painting, which of course never really happened. Some of his final works, including “Camoflauge Last Supper” is also included as is a black box room which loops 15 of his films as well as snippets of “Andy Warhol’s T.V.” and the “Factory Diary” videos.

Andy Warhol. Flowers, 1964. The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of Edlis Neeson Collection. © 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Andy Warhol. Flowers, 1964. The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of Edlis Neeson Collection.

© 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

“Warhol had this comment once, ‘I want to be a machine’ [he also named his studio The Factory] and that comes to life in this exhibition that shows really just how prolific he was as well as his penchant for reproduction and repetition,” says Dandy who hopes the long-overdue retrospective thrills a new generation who can see just how ahead of the game Warhol was to our digital era.

“He’d record himself constantly and everything was documented,” says Dandy who has studied the artist for decades. “It’s said he’d take a roll of film a day every day, and in this world of social media it’s the same practice. The world has now caught up to Andy Warhol.”

After stepping through a holding room full of commissioned celebrity portraits hung on Warhol’s colorful “Cow Wallpaper,” a nod to his famous 1971 exhibition at New York’s Whitney Museum, which also organized the current edition, the focal point here is one of Warhol’s giant “Mao” paintings (which also happens to be one of the Art Institute’s 12 paintings on permanent display). The series of portraits of the Chinese Community Party leader was Warhol’s grand return to painting in 1972 after several years spent convalescing from a gunshot wound inflicted by feminist author Valerie Solanas in 1968, an injury that nearly claimed Warhol’s life.

Andy Warhol. Mao, 1972. The Art Institute of Chicago; Mr. and Mrs. Frank G. Logan Purchase Prize and Wilson L. Mead funds. © 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Andy Warhol. Mao, 1972. The Art Institute of Chicago; Mr. and Mrs. Frank G. Logan Purchase Prize and Wilson L. Mead funds.

© 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

“Ann Goldstein [deputy director, chair and curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the museum] had a memory of the late ‘90s when ‘Mao’ was installed where you could see the painting through the Asian Art wing, following it down through a long corridor, and that was her vision for starting the show,” says Dandy who also points out a series of de facto “windows” throughout the exhibition where viewers can peer into various rooms at multiple times giving an all-encompassing feeling.

Andy Warhol. Self-Portrait, 1948. Janet and Craig Duchossois Collection.

Andy Warhol. Self-Portrait, 1948. Janet and Craig Duchossois Collection.

© 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Viewers will get to see all of Warhol’s different personas in the new exhibition as well, starting with a rare 1948 self-portrait drawing all the way through to the final “Self-Portrait with Fright Wig” from 1986. There’s also Warhol’s personal passport photos he doctored up in a “before and after” scheme and a series of Polaroids of himself in drag, as part of his “Ladies and Gentlemen” portraiture collection. “He was always playing with identity,” says Dandy who also notes that Warhol’s penchant for collaboration really comes out in this assembly of works.

On display is “Third Eye,” Warhol’s 1985 freehand piece with Jean-Michel Basquiat as well as covers from the celeb-on-celeb rag Interview magazine, which Warhol founded in 1969 as a way to get credentialed into more movie premieres. There’s also a running loop of the “Exploding Plastic Inevitable” video featuring The Velvet Underground and Nico that was filmed in Chicago in 1966.

Andy Warhol. Green Coca-Cola Bottles, 1962. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. © 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Andy Warhol. Green Coca-Cola Bottles, 1962. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

© 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

“He was in the city a few times,” says Dandy recalling an appearance in 1985 to sign his “America” photo book at the Art Institute, and a visit for the opening of Old Town’s Cobbler Square Lofts in the mid-‘80s for which Warhol was commissioned to create a painting.

Selena Fragassi is a local freelance writer.

NOTE: In light of AIC Warhol exhibit, the city en masse will celebrate the opening in various ways; Art on theMART will project four renowned Warhol works across Merchandise Mart’s river-facing façade through December 31 while Chicago DJ Heaven Malone plans to release a mixtape called “Factory Girls” that honors women from The Factory days. The Art Institute of Chicago’s restaurant Terzo Piano will also launch a Warhol-inspired fall menu including Coke floats and the museum will host a series of lectures and special events throughout the duration of the exhibition, with detials/menu available on the restaurant website.


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