The Columbia Museum of Art’s summer exhibition, From Marilyn to Mao: Andy Warhol’s Famous Faces, will be on view June 12 through September 13, 2015. The exhibition is a thematically-focused look at the artist’s influential silkscreens and his interest in portraits.
Andy Warhol (1928- 1987) is central to the pop art movement and one of the best-known 20th-century American artists. From Marilyn to Mao uses 55 of Warhol’s famous portraits to explore pop art’s tenet of the cult of celebrity, the idea that pop culture adores the famous simply because they are famous.
Warhol exploited society’s collective obsession with fame like no artist before or after him. The exhibition celebrates the Mao suite, an anonymous gift to the CMA of the complete set of 10 silk-screens Warhol created in 1972 of Mao Zedong, chairman of the Communist Party of China (1949-1976).
“The CMA is very grateful for the generous gift of Warhol’s complete Mao suite to our collection by an anonymous donor,” says CMA executive director Karen Brosius. “In honor of the gift, we organized From Marilyn to Mao with this significant acquisition of 10 Maos as the centerpiece. The gift strengthens the museum’s growing collection and its concentration on modern and contemporary art.”
Warhol first gained success as a commercial illustrator before becoming a world-renowned artist. His works explore the relationship between artistic expression, celebrity culture, and advertisement that flourished by the 1960s–concepts he continued to examine throughout his career. His art forms a mirror of the rise of commercialism and the cult of personality. He was not a judge of his subjects as much as a talented impresario who brought thousands of people into the pantheon of fame, if only for 15 minutes. Some, such as Marilyn Monroe, got a few more minutes.
“Andy Warhol defines American popular culture like no other visual artist,” says CMA Chief Curator Will South. “Warhol’s subjects were taken right off the supermarket shelf— everyone knows his Campbell’s Soup cans. His subjects were also taken off the silver screen—he was obsessed with the famous and the idea of fame itself.
Today, nearly four decades after his death, the art world is still obsessed with Warhol. His art demands the highest prices in the art market, while exhibitions of his work draw fans who were not even born when he was alive. Warhol’s central position begs an all important question: did he really love consumer goods and celebrities and find them all beautiful, or was his life’s work a critique of American materialism?”
In addition to Marilyn Monroe and Mao Zedong, the exhibition includes the faces of Judy Garland, Muhammad Ali, Sigmund Freud, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Albert Einstein, Annie Oakley, Theodore Roosevelt, Giorgio Armani, and Superman, as well as two self-portraits by Warhol, to name a few. The majority of the works outside of the CMA’s Mao suite are loaned by the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Penn.
The run of the exhibition is filled with an array of related evening and daytime programs for adults and families.
For more information, visit www.columbiamuseum.org.