After months of Covid-enforced closure the Tate’s galleries have reopened their doors to welcome back visitors.
The Andy Warhol exhibition at Tate Modern ran for less than a week before the gallery’s closure, but has now been extended until 15th November, meaning fans who missed out pre-lockdown can now see this major retrospective.
Featuring over 100 works from Warhol’s prolific career, the collection brings together early sketches, lesser-known paintings and beloved pop pieces to explore themes of death, desire and religion.
This exhibition serves up lashings of pop art, from the pastiched consumerism of Green Coca Cola Bottles (1962) to the iconic Marilyn Diptych (1962) and portrait of Mao (1972).
However, Warhol’s big, loud pop artworks do not define this show, which is grounded in autobiographical details. Warhol’s childhood as a working class immigrant is emphasized, alongside the influence of his sexuality on his work. The exhibition takes a chronological tour through the artist’s oeuvre, featuring Screen Tests (1964-1966) and Silver Clouds (1965) to introduce the Factory era, during which much of Warhol’s life and work took place within the foil-covered walls of this experimental studio. Just as Warhol’s floating Silver Clouds challenge the static tendencies of sculpture, the Screen Tests disrupt the stasis of portraiture through video: both break beyond genre conventions to keep moving.
After Marilyn and chairman Mao, Latinx drag queens and African-American trans women are next to receive the Warhol treatment. The inclusion of 25 silkscreen portraits from the Ladies and Gentlemen series (1975) brings these rarely-seen pieces into the exhibition’s dialogue between identity, performance and desire. Featuring ladies and queens of the 1970s New York LGBT+ scene, these portraits are vibrant and expressive.
This Tate exhibition shows the broad scope of Warhol’s work, offering a refreshing glimpse beyond the Marilyns and soup cans of his pop period. It demythologizes the celebrity persona Warhol cultivated and instead, offers insight into his loves, beliefs, fears and fixations. The show attempts to draw back the wizard’s curtain and reveal the workings behind Oz, offering both subversive excitement (courtesy of a re-staged Exploding Plastic Inevitable) and thoughtful biography. It grabs attention by presenting Warhol the celebrity, but where this exhibition really succeeds is in inviting us behind the facade: to glimpse Warhol the man.