The Aspen Art Museum opened to the public on Friday for its long-running and highly anticipated museum-wide Andy Warhol retrospective.
Entitled “Andy Warhol: Lifetimes”, it will run until March 27.
What greeted viewers was much more than just another display of the iconic and frequently shown Pop Art images of Warhol – the Marilyn Monroes and the Cans of Soup and the Flowers (although those are also here). Instead, it is a deep exploration of Warhol’s life that invites the viewer to view the work through the lens of his biography, showing, for example, the drawings that Warhol made with his mother when he was a child and the first advertising works as stepping stones towards later breakthroughs. Filling six galleries, this massive, multi-faceted exhibition offers new connections between seemingly divergent bodies of work and asks viewers to look at Warhol the man, artist and icon.
The exhibition was organized by the Aspen Art Museum, Tate Modern and Museum Ludwig in Cologne in collaboration with the Art Gallery of Ontario, where the investigation has already stopped. For the Aspen exhibition, museum director Nicola Lees called on artist Monica Majoli to curate it. Majoli wanted to innovate on Warhol through a biographical approach.
“I have seen shows from Warhol that dealt with a specific part of his identity, but not all,” Majoli said Thursday evening during a preview of the show. “And I thought that kind of all-encompassing nature of interest in Warhol’s biography was actually quite interesting. But I didn’t want to reduce his work to his biography either, so that was the challenge.
The second-floor gallery is filled with ‘After and Before’ information and art, offering an enlightening and entertaining mix of art and biography, including everything from Warhol’s Polaroid camera and well-known tape recorder. loved, to works like “Marilyn Diptych” (1962), “Jackie Frieze” (1964) and “Flowers” as well as less famous ones like “Crosses” and “Gun” from the early 1980s exploring the symbols of the religion and violence in American culture, as well as film work, a wall of Interview magazine covers, and a star-studded collection of celebrity photos.
The First Floor Gallery is a revealing exploration of Warhol as a queer artist, bringing together some of his early works – pen-on-paper drawings of male figures from the mid-1950s – through late masterpieces like “Camouflage” (1986) and the often unrecognized “Oxidation Paint” (1978).
It also includes the gallery exhibit within a gallery, Warhol’s explicit ‘sex parts’ photos from the 1970s, and dozens of male nude works.
“I felt strongly that we had to include very explicit work because it was essential,” said Majoli. “During his life he didn’t really share this job, but I thought it was important because he was talking about the arc of his relationship with his own sexuality in his work.”
The adjacent gallery features a screening of “Factory Diary: Andy in Drag,” from October 1981, as well as works from his “Ladies and Gentlemen” paintings featuring drag queens and trans women of color from 1975.
The ground floor galleries include “Capture,” which aims to showcase more depressed aspects of Warhol’s work and includes 26 of his screen tests and a 1986 self-portrait, and “Clouds,” which includes the series ” Electric Chair “(1971).
Also downstairs is “The Exploding Plastic Inevitable,” a dark room lit by spinning disco balls and filled with projections of performances from The Factory, Warhol’s legendary New York studio, and explosive music from the Velvet Underground – filled with bean bags, it seems like an inviting and immersive meeting place to soak up the vibrations of the factory.
The museum also opened its own “The Factory” on Friday, a street-level interactive workshop space where visitors can take portraits and make art. Free lessons will also be held there all winter (kid-friendly version on Wednesdays and adult lessons on Saturdays).
“We’re just getting started,” said Annie Henninger, museum director of diversity, equity, access and inclusion of the interactive space. “We’ll have other things going on and we’ll figure out what people really want to do here.”
The Warhol-themed series of events at the museum begins Saturday with a live version of the “Museum Confidential” podcast on-site.
The museum has also opened a new Warhol-inspired store, Possession Obsession, in its basement hallway (in addition to artist Jonathan Berger’s boutique, which is still open on the first floor).
Along with the opening of the exhibit, which took place after a six-week closure for the installation, the museum opened its new Rooftop Café on Friday, run by Chef Brian Banister, and its new eight-day menu. elements and its afternoon offers (available from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. respectively). The Slippery Slope bar has also reopened on the roof.
The exhibition deserves and welcomes repeat visits to probe the densest biographical sections and to consider the enormous scope of work here (over 200 pieces). Lees said she knew the museum had something special going on with “Andy Warhol: Lifetimes” during the installation.
“We had all of these amazing moments with the crew during setup, where they were just starting to see the show,” she said Thursday. “You could see the excitement in their eyes because they just hadn’t thought ‘Warhol’ was going to tell a new story, but it was.”