Monday, December 10, 2007

Andy down under

The Andy Warhol show in Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art (December 8 to March 30) is only 3 and a half hours away and sure has a lot of stuff in it, most from the Warhol Museum in Pittsburg. There are 300 objects including paintings, films, drawing and prints along with a selection of Brillo, Heinz, Del Monte and Campbell’s boxes, wall paper, floating balloons, magazines and the inevitable memorabilia. Although there are some good examples of the early work, the exhibition is constrained by the limited number of first-class examples of Warhol’s output. As a result the exhibition struggles to show why Warhol is considered such an important figure in 20th century art. The black and white Telephone from 1961 certainly demonstrates Warhol grabbing Pop Art by the scruff of the neck, but its prim editing excludes the drips and scumbles of other works of this time, imperfections that Warhol prudently included just in case Abstract Expressionism hadn’t completely run its course. Of more interest are a set of 1961 drawings of newspaper front pages, showing Warhol working his way toward a Pop aesthetic, still with an expressionist drawing hand. A high point is a stunning selection of Warhol’s films, integrated into the exhibition in a way that is bound to be influential on future exhibitions. Duchamp’s screen test is a rare delight, and so too Sleep, the Empire State and Blow Job. One strong endorsement the show makes is that two of its best works are from the collection of the National Gallery of Australia (an acidic Electric Chair from 1967 and a1963 silvery Single Elvis). The Gallery’s inaugural director, James Mollison, instinctively understood that if a national collection is going to be anything more than a pinched provincial experience, it needs to acknowledge the world around it. To see the National Gallery of Australian’s Warhols shining in the company of Pittsburg’s Warhol Museum collections is to appreciate both Mollison’s daring, and Australia’s confident positioning of itself as a citizen of a wider world.
Image: Liza Minnelli helps out with marketing