The following is rated GS: Gratuitous Snark
Possibly slapped together by summer interns utilizing the museum website’s search function, Regarding Warhol: Sixty Years, Fifty Artists at the Metropolitan Museum of Art has the intellectual depth of a season of The Hills. I didn’t put a ton of thought into this post; but after seeing what has manifested as an exhibition, lack of thought mirrors the attitude of the curators. You can almost see the hands of the Board of Directors curating the exhibition, feeling the museum needs another “rock star” show now that is has been over a year since Savage Beauty marched back into the macabre archives of the House of McQueen (or wherever those hauntingly beautiful creations have found their final resting place). The Met is often criticized for not focusing more on Contemporary Art, but this is New York City and there’s enough of that elsewhere. MoMA does exist, or so Twitter tells me.
Roberta Smith, art critic for the New York Times, commented, “That it can seem that just about any artist from the last three decades could have been included testifies either to Warhol’s influence or the show’s shapelessness.” No one is refuting that Warhol is the influential artist that he has become known to be, but needing to articulate it through this “Who’s Who” Where’s Waldo parade is more of an insult to the museum patron’s intellect. Categorized under the same subheadings as Warhol’s Wikipedia entry (fact checking has confirmed that it is not in fact the same subheadings), the exhibition is divided into five themes integral to Warhol’s work: Daily News, Portraiture, Queer Studies, Consuming Images, and No Boundaries. The fat of the exhibition flabbily hangs on this skeletal outline, as each wall label attempts to assert the show’s over-arching thesis repeatedly like a precocious seventh grader who has just learned how to write a research paper. Since Warhol did portraiture, apparently everyone did portraiture—Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman, Rembrandt, the Renaissance painters, the Egyptians…
Though it’s not very productive to just be negative. The show is designed very well with a cleverly fun but modern edge and a particular flare for entertainment not typically associated with such an exhibit (or institution). Putting an exclamation point on each section is a piece that through scale or interaction is definitely a “wow” moment. The interactive pieces—Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s pile of candy for the taking “Untitled” (Portrait of Ross in L.A.) and Warhol’s own Silver Clouds—actually manage to defy the notorious “museum effect”: intangible objectification of tangible objects. But whether all this simply becomes a sensationalized crutch is another point entirely…
I’ve never been a big fan of Warhol—not because I don’t respect his work, but because he tends to be the cultural refuge of people whose knowledge of art history is as vapid as an aboveground swimming pool in wintertime…or this exhibition. He’s an obvious favorite of anyone easily wooed and distracted by bright colors, for whom a television channel other than E! would be a very foreign and perplexing place. This certainly is not the profile of every Warhol fan (no offense, everyone), but every sorority girl has Marilyn’s portrait tacked up on her dorm wall. That’s an issue for my own pretentious demons, but to see him then designated as the seminal artist who is responsible for (they’re alleging) literally every achievement in art post-1962 is a bit infuriating and very much laughable. But even for a fan, the abundance of replicas undermines Warhol’s genius rather than immortalizing it, reducing his witty insights and progressive thought to the mere coasters and postcards that can be picked up in the gift shop immediately outside of the exhibition.
Suggested wine pairing: Using the above image as inspiration of Warhol’s seriality and commercial critique, it’s scary to say Yellow Tail might be the Coca-Cola of wine. But in an effort to save our taste buds, let’s instead Pop (haha) a cork on a bottle of sometime cheap and tasty: Naked Grape.
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