December 2021 - At the PALP Palazzo Pretorio in Pontedera (Pisa province, Tuscany, Italy) – through 20 March 2022 – more than 140 Andy Warhol pieces tell the story of the most striking interpreter of mass society, a colourful witness to the icons of his time: Andy Warhol. ICONS!, a must-see and rich exhibit of the immortal pop works by the American artist from Pittsburgh (1928-1987).
Andy Warhol (real name: Andrew Warhola Jr.) – an eclectic artist and one of the most influential protagonists of the twentieth century, a curious narrator of mass society and dazzling sociologist of ’60s era America – he managed to transform the fetishes of the American social imaginary into art, long before the power of mass media was established.
Andy Warhol, photographer, director, designer, and illustrator, the father of Pop Art who transformed Coca Cola, Elvis Presley, Campbell’s Soup, Liz Taylor, and Marilyn Monroe into icons, as well as the dollar bill and Jackie Kennedy. With 141 works of art, the exhibit traces his professional path, presenting his masterpieces from each period, beginning from the extremely colourful Liz (1964) and going all the way to the unforgettable Marilyn (from 1985 to 1988). Plus, three beautiful Cows (from 1966 to 1976), alongside other super icons: Brillo Box (1970), Flowers (1970), Electric Chair (1971), not to mention Campbell’s Soup (1968).
Arranged in five sections, the exhibit capably provides an in-depth narration of the various facets of Andy Warhol. The exhibit path reveals the life of this extraordinary person, starting from his first works and going all the way through the late eighties. Andy Warhol. ICONS! is the tale of the incredible life of a man, celebrity, and artist who changed the connotations, not only of the art world, but of music, the cinema, and fashion and who radically revolutionised any previous aesthetic definition.
Self portrait, 1978, by Andy Warhol.
Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.
THE EXHIBIT. First section – Fame. This is the section which not only reveals the most significant aspects of Warhol’s work, but also those that tell of his childhood. As a child, Andy Warhol was reserved and always alone, spending his time collecting photographs of the Hollywood greats he would find in the newspapers. Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant, Clark Gable, and the like were playmates to Andy who was teased by classmates because of a skin condition. leading him to develop a significant bond with his mother.
This is where Warhol’s fixation from afar with celebrities was born and this section deals with this fundamental aspect, which ranges from Warhol’s legends all the way to the most famous frequenters of the factory. From Liz Taylor to Marilyn Monroe, from Valentino to Mohammed Ali, there are many portraits of celebrities and Hollywood divas, great entrepreneurs and artists, celebrating Warhol’s most peculiar aspect, the most public but simultaneously most intimate aspect. In fact, the portrait of his mother is also presented in this section. Warhol also tackled some locations as if they were great divas, which is why this section also exhibits his works depicting the factory, as well as the Washington Monument.
Oliviero Toscani at the grand opening of the Andy Warhol. ICONS! exhibit at the PALP in Pontedera (Pisa).
Second section – Daily. Warhol quickly established himself professionally, becoming a point of reference for New Yorker creativity. He founded Andy Warhol Enterprises, Inc. and this was another revolutionary aspect. Warhol became the first artist/enterprise. And if the great divas sought out Warhol, then anyone would want to follow him and enter into Andy’s magical world. Anyone would be willing to get in line to be transported into his dimension. Warhol tells us that religious faith is believing in something that cannot be seen and which has a figurative transposition, just like the Hollywood divas. No one has ever seen them in person, but they are part of our daily lives. And obviously, at that point, as a sort of trick to becoming the idols of a layperson’s religion, anyone would try to have their portrait done by Warhol, because being one of his subjects guaranteed a certain status. And the many portraits done on commission was part of what led Warhol to become one of the highest paid artists ever. In this section, you’ll find common and powerful people, friends for a day or assiduous frequenters of the Factory. Warhol successfully works the magic of turning all of them into superstars.
Paint something you see every day and something that everybody recognises.
Something like a can of Campbell's Soup,
said Muriel Latow, Warhol’s commercial art assistant,
owner of the Manhattan Latow Art Gallery.
Third section - Still life. In 1962, Warhol began using silkscreen printing and created the Campbell’s Soup series, transforming the everyday items on supermarket shelves into extremely expensive works of art. This is the short circuit, this is the perfect storm. In fact, there is the recognisability of the object, which is enhanced as the fulcrum of modern living, but there is also a deep and highly intelligent nod at art history, because with that soup can, Warhol simply updated the concept of still life. This was something that he would later repeat, using banknotes, tickets to big events, or, more simply, fruit with a psychedelic flavour.
Fourth section - World's Life. Let’s not forget the politicians. In 1972, the first subject to simultaneously become a portrait and a graphic by Warhol was Mao. Another mad and visionary intuition - using political icons the same way as Hollywood divas - and that would also happen with other subjects (Kennedy, for example). And it is precisely with Vesuvius that Warhol began his approach to the environment, the force of nature. But Warhol was also interested in another aspect of politics. In 1983, he created a series that seemed to deviate from the provocative amoral world that he had embraced up to that time - ten silkscreens that represented as many endangered species - and he said that having land and not ruining it is the most beautiful art that anybody could ever want to own. It wasn't the first time Warhol had painted animals. In fact, he had already done many paintings in the Cow series between ’66 and ’76, and it wasn’t the first time he had approached nature, like in his series of flowers. In this section, besides the portraits of politicians, flowers, and the cow series, you’ll also see the work depicting Vesuvius.
Andy Warhol, Vesuvius (1985).
Image source: capodimonte.cultura.gov.it/litalia-chiamo-capodimonte-oggi-racconta-il-vesuvius-di-andy-warhol
Why? Here is the explanation. In 1975, he made the first of a long series of voyages to Naples at the invitation of the great gallery owner, Lucio Amelio. Naples reminded Warhol very much of his New York, with the same bustle, the same vivacious culture (it was in that setting where, in his many famous acquaintances of those years, he began a close friendship with Joseph Beuys, artistically considered to be almost the antithesis of Warhol). Historian and director, Mario Franco, remembered that period with these words. “Warhol loved Naples, the creative fire it had in its belly, the fatalistic co-existence with death.There is no Warhol’s Paris or Warhol’s London. There is Warhol’s Naples, with its exterminator, Vesuvius, the image of which he obsessively replicates in different colours.” And it is precisely with Vesuvius that Warhol began his approach to the environment, the force of nature. This section also includes the images of the electric chair and those of fights and protests.
Fifth section – Music. There is also no lack of collaboration with the music world. Just to mention one of many, there is the fact that he became the manager of the Velvet Underground and he also created the famous cover with a peelable banana, which was pink inside, and we’ll leave it up to the readers to draw their own conclusions as to what that particular chromatic choice refers to. This section is also rich with record covers, memorabilia, objects, and portraits of the many musicians that populate Warhol’s world.
With the patronage of the Tuscan Region, created by the Municipality of Pontedera, the Palazzo Pretorio di Pontedera, and the Fondazione per la Cultura Pontedera (Pontedera Foundation for Culture), the exhibit is produced and organised by Piuma, in collaboration with Art Motors, and it is curated by Nicolas Ballario and Edoardo Falcioni. The exhibit is also sponsored by Knauf and Ecofor is a partner.
Andy Warhol. ICONS! is the exhibit chosen this year to reinforce the great urban culture and art project, Natale ad Arte - Pontedera 2021, promoted by the Pontedera Foundation for Culture, in collaboration with the Municipality of Pontedera for the direction of Alberto Bartalini, who resumes the path called “Arte per non Dormire” with the goal of setting up a quality project on the streets and squares of Pontedera open to residents and visitors. For this edition, and undisputed champion like Andy Warhol was chosen to increase the already outstanding artistic proposal that Natale ad Arte - Pontedera 2021 intends to offer its citizens.
(Source: Arthemisia press office).
Background image: painting kits to reproduce Andy Warhol’s most famous works - source: