Major Warhol exhibit opens at Mint
“Making money is art, and working is art and good business is the best art.”
ó Andy Warhol
By Susan Shinn
CHARLOTTE ó More than 20 years after his death, artist Andy Warhol remains an icon of pop art.
He was also a shrewd businessman, creating mass produced works for the public.
It’s fitting, then, that Warhol has a place among the Forbes list of the top 10 money-earning dead celebrities.
The man who said that everyone has 15 minutes of fame continues to influence the art world.
“Andy Warhol Portfolios: Life & Legends,” a major exhibit of Warhol’s works, opens Saturday at the Mint Museum in Charlotte.
The display, which features 77 pieces of artwork from the Bank of America collection, runs through Feb. 15.
Charles Mo, the Mint’s director of fine arts and exhibit curator, characterizes Warhol as being ahead of his time.
“He went in many different directions and made great strides in the field of pop art,” Mo says.
That includes taking everyday objects, such as Campbell’s soup cans and Brillo pads, and transforming them into art, Mo says.
“The public accepted it and wanted to see more of it,” Mo says.
Warhol began his career as a commercial illustrator.
“He just became this incredible businessman,” Mo says. “He recognized that he could create works people could relate to.”
His silkscreen art was not expensive ó at the time.
“I don’t think he was doing it for money,” Mo says. “It was all part of the pop art phenomenon. He was moving in the world of celebrities.”
While he was creating art from such mundane subjects as soup cans, he was also creating unforgettable portraits of celebrities ó Marilyn Monroe comes immediately to mind.
Mo is thrilled that this exhibition has one of each of these memorable pieces of art.
There’s also a portrait of the artist done by Robert Mappelthorpe ó a controversial individual in his own right.
The portrait, Mo says, is a new acquisition and a last-minute addition to the Mint display.
“The bank’s collection spreads across the country, but there’s an incredible amount statewide,” Mo notes.
Mo is pleased to have gotten every piece he requested.
“They really do like to share their collection,” Mo says. “A smaller traveling exhibition will come out of this exhibit.”
Mo notes that Warhol often produced subjects in a series. This exhibit has multiple flowers along with a series of Muhammad Ali.
According to Mo, Warhol once explained that series are like spokes in a wheel.
“There are many aspects to the creation of art,” Mo says. “A series allows an artist to carry a concept through step by step. It’s a process of creative expression. I think that’s all part of creative exploration.”
With the “Flowers” series, Mo says, all the pieces look alike at first glance. But there’s finesse in the color and other aspects upon further examination.
Warhol had his heyday in the ’60s and ’70s, and was active into the ’80s.
“Traditional art critics had trouble with what he was doing,” Mo says. “He didn’t look to the Old Masters but to everyday life.”
He was a celebrity in his own right. He was a fixture at Studio 54 and his art studio, known as The Factory, was painted completely silver.
He even made a statement with his appearance ó a shock of wild white hair (a wig in later years), framed by heavy black glasses.
“He continues to be the subject of numerous exhibits and publications,” Mo says. “Wherever he is now, he’s probably amazed at how the world clamors to see his art.”
This is the Mint’s major fall exhibition, Mo says, and “the public buzz is out there. We anticipate this is going to be an extremely popular offering. We’re delighted to be able to present it to the public.”
At 3 p.m. Sunday, Dr. Tom Sokolowski, director of The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, will present a lecture on Warhol, free with museum admission. For more information about the Warhol exhibit, call the Mint Museum at 704-337-2000 or visit www.mintmuseum.org.