Warhol in the Age of Instagram and Trump
By Nisan Igdem
With his colourful character, Andy Warhol remains a prominent figure in America and, although there are many controversies surrounding him, his art is still being celebrated. Recently, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City started housing the exhibition Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again, curated by Donna De Salvo. The show attracted a lot of attention, once again leading to discussions about Warhol’s art and personality.
Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again is the first Warhol retrospective organised by a US institution since MoMA put together a retrospective in 1989, which puts the exhibition at the Whitney museum in a very critical role. Not only does the exhibition aim to connect with the younger generations and explore Warhol in the age of Instagram; it also addresses sides of Warhol that go unnoticed among his colourful portraits: his artworks for commercial use, as well as the paintings he produced after the attempted assassination by Valerie Solanas in 1968. De Salvo summarises the exhibition and Warhol with these words: “I’ve always believed that the test of a great work of art is that no matter how many times you go back to it, you can’t completely figure it out.” However, that has not stopped people from trying. Thus, in the light of the exhibition, there has been an interest in Warhol’s life and legacy.
One part of Warhol that fascinated many was his extravagant life, and how that life translated itself into his art. He produced his works in a studio called the Factory, with many collaborators equally extravagant as he was. After the opening of the exhibition in Whitney Museum of American Art, The New York Times has published an article which discusses the artist with the prior collaborators from the Factory. The article underlines that the façade may be misleading, since, despite the colourful works produced in the studio; the inner workings were extremely dark. Fran Lebowitz , one of the collaborators from the 1970s, remarks that, “Andy encouraged bad behaviour by people who were already unstable. I noticed a very high mortality rate of people near him.” With the article, as well as the exhibition, parts of Warhol’s life that people tend to disregard come to light.
Warhol’s influence on the world did not end with his lifetime. More than 30 years after his death, people are still discussing his effect on contemporary politics. With Donald Trump’s known affection for Warhol’s works, De Salvo thinks, “There may be some who see Warhol as the cause of it all,” adding that the exhibition highlights a dark side of United States: “our love of capitalism, our love of consumerism.” Thus, the exhibition opens up a platform for Warhol’s legacy to be considered in a contemporary framework, while raising awareness for current issues.
Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again is an important point in American art, as it explores Warhol in a contemporary context while inviting more discussion about him. The exhibition is currently in the Whitney Museum of American Art until 31 March 2019, and will then travel to San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Art Institute of Chicago.
‘Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again’, Whitney Museum of American Art, 2018. (https://whitney.org/Exhibitions/AndyWarhol)
Guy Trebay and Ruth La Ferla, “Tales From the Warhol Factory”, The Art Newspaper, 12 November 2018. (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/12/style/andy-warhol-factory-history.html)
Linda Yablonsky, ‘Andy Warhol is Better Than Ever - Thanks to Donna De Salvo”, The Art Newspaper, 9 November 2018. (https://www.theartnewspaper.com/blog/andy-warhol-is-back-again-and-better-than-ever-thanks-to-the-whitney-s-donna-de-salvo)
Nancy Kenney, “Andy Warhol for the Instagram Age: Huge Retrospective Opens at the Whitney in New York”, The Art Newspaper, 8 November 2018. (https://www.theartnewspaper.com/preview/andy-warhol-for-the-instagram-age)
Nancy Kenney, ‘Is Warhol to Blame for Trump? Pop Pioneer’s Work Touches on Many Issues Facing America Today”, The Art Newspaper, 6 November 2018. (https://www.theartnewspaper.com/preview/when-warhol-confused-trump)