Fifteen minutes of posthumous fame just keeps going for Andy Warhol, the undisputed giant of Pop Art who’s getting not just one, but two major exhibitions in Washington DC.
“Warhol: Headlines” at the National Gallery of Art will focus — for the first time — the legendary New York artist’s fascination with front-page news and tabloid sensationalism.
“Andy Warhol: Shadows” at the nearby Hirshhorn museum will bring together 102 monumental silkscreened and hand-painted canvases — never before shown in their collective entirety — conceived from distorted photographs of shadows.
Both shows open Sunday under the collective title “Warhol on the Mall”.
About 80 pieces make up the “Headlines” show, which touches on such themes as airplane crashes, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and the many love affairs of actress Elizabeth Taylor.
Some 40 percent of the show has never been seen before.
Setting the tone for the exhibition Warhol’s groundbreaking “A Boy for Meg”, an oil-on-canvas reproduction of the New York Post announcing the news that Britain’s Princess Margaret had given birth.
From 1968, “Flash – November 22, 1963” recreates over the space of an entire wall news agency dispatches that revealed, minute by minute, Kennedy’s murder in Dallas, Texas on that day.
“He is calling our attention to the fact that the media is feeding our appetite for the news, which is seemingly insatiable,” the show’s curator Molly Donovan said.
“Warhol himself couldn’t get enough of the news,” she added, and indeed he was himself a regular fixture of the gossip columns.
“He wanted to show us that we’re responsible for the news, that the news in its contents are largely determined by us through our patronage, through our consumption and desires and fears.”
“Headlines” closes at the National Gallery of Art — which, rather appropriately, is close to the Newseum, a museum dedicated to news gathering — on January 2.
It then goes on the road, traveling to Frankfurt (February 11 to May 13), Rome (June 11 to September 9) and finally to Warhol’s hometown (October 14 – January 6, 2013).
While “Headlines” draws from the earlier stages of Warhol’s fame, “Shadows” emerged in the last decades of his life.
Rich in blues, grays and reds, the 102 canvases will be installed edge-to-edge and run uninterrupted for almost 450 feet (150 meters) around the Hirshhorn’s galleries.
The show ends January 15.
Alex has written for Vanity Fair, Barrons, Bloomberg and Condé Nast Traveler.