To Really Know Warhol, Is To Love Him

By Jo Phillips

When we think of Pop art we may well think of a ‘poster’ style image of a Can of Soup or a layered screen print of Marylin Monroe. Then we think we know Pop Art especially we think we know Andy Warhol. The original pop artist is so well known, his images so often referenced we may well all think we are on top of all there to know; his work doesn’t need to be explored in any great depth. Think again. Two new exhibitions in Dublin this autumn shed a far more personal perspective on two very diverse artists. Find out more here in To Really Know Warhol, is to love Him.

Image on left-hand side: Andy Warhol, Campbell’s Soup I: Tomato (II.46), AP edition E/Z, 1968, screenprint, 35 x 23 in. Collection of the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation. Image: Strode Photographic. © 2023 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

We often have ideas about known artists. We see their work on social media, TV, on birthday cards, and even pop videos. We become almost over-familiar and because the works may well be instantly recognisable, we can quite easily almost dismiss the creator or even their works.

But sometimes a great curator of an exhibition will bring a whole new facet of an artist that allows us to see them in a new light or enable us to see completely different elements within the works on a deeper level. Take two new exhibitions in Ireland happening now. One of the Irish artist Sir John Lavery, and the other of American pop art is Andy Warhol.

What many of us already know of Warhol’s life is he was born in 1928 in Pittsburgh USA of Slovakian-born parentage. Starting out his career as a commercial illustrator he went on to show in galleries in the late 1950s, and he began to receive recognition as an influential and controversial artist by the early 1960s. Taking ideas and concepts from popular culture advertising and celebrity he was the person who coined the often-used phrase “15 minutes of fame”.

His images are so iconic that many of us can picture them, and on top of that, or partly because, he has had endless retrospectives and many columns written about him, his work, his life, and his ‘family’ who all meet up at ‘The Factory’ where he set up his studio.

His Silver Factory set up in the 1960s was a meeting point for a cornucopia of creativity. Anyone who was anyone or even nobody met there from local drag queens to rock stars and other creative icons including the likes of Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, Truman Capote, Marcel Duchamp, Salvador Dali, Edie Sedgwick, Brigid Berlin, and Jane Holzer.

From the 1960s onwards this singular creative changed the art world forever. Interestingly, in our day and age with social media and our ability to be ‘close’ in theory to our pop stars and actors, he didn’t know this would happen but it’s as if Warhol foretold this phenomenon. Our current obsession with money, fame, glamour, and youth was well predicted by him. But don’t let that belies darker and deeper elements in his work that this new exhibition brings to the fore.

But the best shows about him (or any artist) are when you get to see the most infamous or famous works alongside more personal works. This gives a whole new meaning to the ‘known’ pieces because somehow there is a more personal insight that comes with seeing the juxtaposition of both works set together.

The Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin Ireland has just that special kind of exhibition right now. Andy Warhol, Three Times Out, runs from now until the 28th of January 2024 and is a must-see exhibition that brings not just an idea of the expanse of his work but a depth not often seen, with much in the way of personal insight for those who want to look further than screen printed celebrities.

The first room shows his piece, Silver Clouds, and is still as mesmerising as it originally was. The floating metallic pillows that hover in space allow audiences to become physically hypnotized but also to play with the installation. Just like artists who worked with ready-mades before, the collection of silver floating oblongs call to ‘get engaged’ and ‘to be part of the works’. Showing from his very early works that he wanted us to move away from the traditional distance of looking at a painting in a frame, the ‘Look, Don’t Touch’ world of art. Not he.

One of the early rooms of the show is filled with many private drawings, sketches, and self-portraits that preface the well-known works. Private scribblings and small paintings where the viewer notes references to other previously famous and highly regarded artists, alongside almost painful multiple self-portraits in painterly line or pen drawings. The images are a mirror to what feels like the artist’s soul.

Some are even simple letters as though working out his own personal font. Each drawing of nudes, religious motifs, friends, faces, unicorns, and angels seems to be a step towards the giant screen prints he became so renowned for.

Andy Warhol, Self-Portrait,1966. Silkscreened synthetic polymer paint and enamel, pencil and ballpoint pen on six canvas panels. Framed, each: 58.4 x 58.4 x 3.2 cm. Accession Number: B-WARH-2P98.16. 1-.6. The Eli and Edythe L. Broad Collection. © 2023 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

The diverse images are often deeply personal as though a set of private listings seemingly ask, Who am I? Where do I fit in amongst this world of classic or modern art? Sharp, questioning, enquiring, yet also painful, and immensely personal these seemingly inconsequential pictures, though the walls are covered in them, are what gives the other most known works, a new dimension. The Private against the Public Warhol.

Like a mirror, an inner turmoil, his creative mind, his most personal thoughts, each echoes the talent to come. And it is these very closed works that bring the others so much more credence.

Andy Warhol, Marilyn Monroe (Marilyn), (II.31), AP edition C/Z, 1967, screenprint 36 x 36 in. Collection of the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation. Image: Aaron Wessling Photography. © 2023 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Suddenly the prints of Chairman Mao in multi-colored pop-tones feel as if he is personally sticking to fingers up at communism from his consumerist, material, commercial world; looking at it after viewing sketches feels akin to a slap in the face.

This artist reshaped art into its next art realm, post-modernism. It wasn’t about the deep emotions of say American Abstract Expressionism painting it was about the very humanness of what art could be, mirrors of our obsessions, greed, consumerism, and the ‘modern’ world. This very moving show highlights very different elements of his works. It’s all on display silkscreens, film, photography, publishing, performance, video, and television.

But it also highlights collaboration. From the films showing him working with others, the images of those who hung around the factory to works created with other artists like Basquiat later in Warhol’s life. There is also a representation of the work and collaborations both Andy Warhol and Francis Bacon had with acclaimed US artist and photographer Peter Beard. This culminates in the final room where the two artists sit side by side a comparison not often thought of.

The gallery has been working on this unique exhibition for over five years which includes more than 250 works borrowed from museums and private collections in the US, Canada, Europe, and the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.

In the same fashion that Warhol was revolutionary, this exhibition has the same energy to it. By highlighting so much personal work it explodes many a myth and shows off the depth of this artist’s thinking, being, and works and without a doubt, his brilliance.

Andy Warhol, Flowers,1964. Silkscreen on canvas, 60 × 60 cm. AW-0004 F(a). The Sonnabend Homem Collection. © 2023 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

The exhibition is curated by Barbara Dawson, Director Hugh Lane Gallery, and Michael Dempsey, Head of Exhibitions, and is funded by the Dublin City Council.

In the very same vein but with a completely different artist the same sense of personally insightful works can be seen at another gallery with the work of Sir John Lavery an Irish painter best known for his portraits and wartime depictions. Lavery on Location runs at the National Gallery Ireland from now until 14 January 2024 

Born in Ireland, but from a young age and through his artistic studies he was in Scotland. Known for his portrait works, from Queen Victoria to society people, and some of his wartime imagery. Although he never went to the Western Front he painted boats planes, and airships associated with war.

NGI 2022.138

Sir John Lavery, (1856-1941) A Garden in France, 1898.Image, National Gallery of Ireland

This new exhibition focuses on his travels from places he holidayed with his family, to shorelines, coastal planes, and friendships in moments of relaxation and entertainment. Another set of images if you like, that gives a personal insight into an artist often seen from a one-sided facet; The portrait man is here exposed as so much more.

This major exhibition focuses on the artist’s impressions of the people and locations that he encountered during a life filled with travel. Whenever the man holidayed it seems his paints and easel were with him, because at every moment and however much the time may have been a personal family holiday the man painted.

It was as though he was unable to have fun himself and as if entertainment was too merely a fluffy existence he had no desire for that all he could do to express any kind of emotions was to stand back and paint it

And so he did, these images on show here not only feel totally personal, emotive and but even like glancing at someone’s private holiday pictures they express, it feels, so much that he couldn’t.

Sir John Lavery (1856-1941), On the Bridge at Grez, 1884. National Gallery of Ireland.

He certainly didn’t engage with his family on holiday encounters or skiing trips the locations may well have been great fun for everyone else but for his they were strictly to be caught in canvas.

And so what is interesting to note is the carefree attire of many of the images. Fabric on a dress moves in a game of tennis as though the artist himself felt the wind created by the movement of the player as she swiped at the ball with her racket. It’s intimate in a less obvious way, the fluidity captured like the essence of all these insider moments, soft, veiled, and affectionate.

The exhibition starts with the most naturalistic and follows the artist as he was influenced by the impressionists; his images take more life and lust as such as the show progresses. Almost confidential images of family and friends in their everyday holiday moments capture the laid-back casual yet private moments.

From a bullfight to a porch, a coastline to a garden tea party, the feeling of ‘life’ happening jumps from the canvases and by doing so shows ‘life’ at its most busy effervescent, and alive. Such a departure from a stilted-by-necessary portrait, these images are a glimpse into the heart of the artist.

Sir John Lavery, (1856-1941) Loch Katrine, 1913. National Galleries of Scotland. Presented by Mrs Annie Dunlop from the estate of George B Dunlop 1951.

From Scotland to France, Switzerland, Spain, Ireland, Italy, London, Venice, Cannes New York, and finally Palm Springs. The varied locations express so much about how the artist never stopped.

It was an image from Palm Springs that stood out and was set as one of the last images in the show. By this time he was in his 80s and after his wife had died most thought he would slow down if not fully stop working; Yet he chose to travel to America again.

A large framed painting of his granddaughter, lying down with her friend, sunbathing captures not just a personal moment of lighthearted fun in their 1940s sunwear glamorously indulging in the now very fashionable sun tanning, but yet another emotive glace from the artist.

Here he seems to celebrate the very vibrant essence of youth, he doesn’t look down down (although the painting is from above) emotionally but it is like a painting of the celebration of youthful abandonment and freedom to be young, attractive, and fashionable.

As though he just seemed to enjoy their youth, their joy, there is something enchanting in this painting. The viewer can feel his great pleasure in watching these young people with their zest for life. The image is full of pure enjoyment, love, and life not what you would expect of an 80-year-old in the last ‘paint strokes’ of life.

Both sets of images across each of the exhibitions show the progression of both artists. From some works, that seem to be captured with an emotional disassociation, all the way to deeply emotional connectedness.

And that really is the beauty of these two exhibitions. Through great curation, they expose, with the lightest touches, insights into artists we assume we know. Maybe we do know them but maybe after visiting these two shows, we will know that bust that little bit better.

.Cent magazine went to Ireland with both galleries and stayed at Wilder Townhouse in Dublin A luxurious boutique hotel on the tree-lined Adelaide Road, a city hideaway close to St. Stephens Green and the main city attractions.

Dating from the Victorian era, with its stunning red-brick facade, The Wilder Townhouse evokes a real sense of history, perfectly combining its rich heritage with modern elegance and comforts, every detail has been carefully considered. The Wilder Townhouse has uniquely designed bedrooms, suites, a restaurant, and a Gin bar to boot.

Find more about the Warhol Exhibition at Hugh Lane Gallery here

Find out more about The Lavery on Location exhibition at the National Gallery Ireland here

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