In a City of hundreds of cultural institutions and historic sites (click here to see a full list), many of which are internationally known it’s hard to stand out. The Brooklyn Museum, carves out it spot as the second-largest art museum in New York City, and one of the largest in the United States. Opened in 1897 and founded by Augustus Graham, the Brooklyn Museum building is built to the standards of classical masonry and the exhibits seek to embody the rich artistic heritage of world cultures. I went not to admire treasures from around the world (something that i’ve been fortunate enough to have already spent alot of time doing) but rather for one particular exhibition.
Andy Warhol: The Last Decade
Encompassing nearly fifty works, the exhibition reveals the artist’s vitality, energy, and renewed spirit of experimentation in the first U.S. museum survey to examine the late work of American artist Andy Warhol (1928–1987). During this time Warhol produced more works, in a considerable number of series and on a vastly larger scale, than at any other point in his forty-year career. It was a decade of great artistic development for him, during which a dramatic transformation of his style took place alongside the introduction of new techniques.
Adding to the excitement of the event i had the best guide imaginable – a friends friend (who i met the other weekend at the party in up-state NY) who is a private art dealer and painter who was a friend of Andy’s and dealt his Artwork!!! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT! i couldn’t! To hear all the quirky anecdotal facts about Andy Warhol and that whole crazy scene whilst viewing the works – amazing. In Soho in the 70s, there was a group of about 500 people who all knew each other, artists and other creative types who’d all go out 5 nights a week, wearing crazy/quirky outfits, mixing with the artist elite and all unanimously worshipping one man – Mr Andy Warhol.
In the late 1970s, he developed a new interest in abstraction, first with his Oxidations and Shadows series and later with his Yarn, Rorschach, and Camouflage paintings.
His return to the hand-painted image in the 1980s was inspired by collaborations with Keith Haring, Francesco Clemente and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Jean- Michel was a fascinating young man whom i learnt alot about, and became very intrigued by, when i saw a very well made documentary about him the other day named Jean-Michel Basquiat: Radiant Child. He started as a graffiti writer in New York City, and in the 1980s produced Neo-expressionist painting. Before his career as a painter began he produced punk-inspired postcards for sale on the street (he’d dropped out of high school, staying with various friends), and become known for the political–poetical graffiti spread over crime riddern NYC in the 70s under the name of SAMO. In 1981 he put paint on canvas for the first time, and by 1983 was an artist with “rock star status.” His star skyrocketed with his unique works which for many, perfectly encapsulated the the era. He achieved critical and commercial success, though he was constantly confronted by racism from his peers.
From a street artist struggling to sell postcards, he became the latest and almost greatest – a title exclusively reserved for Warhol. Basquiat famously walked into a restaurant and sold one of his postcards to Warhol – they became really close friends and even went on to do amazing collaborations together (which is how i got onto this tangent in the first place). Their collaborations received awful reviews (though i absolutely love them) which greatly strained their relationship. They parted ways and Warhol died very suddenly not long after from a gallbladder infection in 1987. The whole scene was hugely impacted by this, Basquiat especially. His high flying career continued to grow until it tragically ended when Basquiat died of a heroin overdose on August 12, 1988 when he was just 27. Today, his work sells for up to US$14.6 million.
My friend recalled inviting Jean-Michel to the opening of the Mud Club. The Mudd Club was a TriBeCa nightclub which quickly became a major fixture in the city’s underground music and counterculture scene. Jean-Michel never made it that first evening as he wasn’t allowed in (probably because he was well under the legal drinking age) but another night, my friend (and guide for the Warhol exhibit) ushered him in with his group who passed all the queues and Basquiat was instantly another of the artists who received free drinks and partied on down. Can you imagine being part of that scene?
Sorry for the diversion from the Warhol Exhibition- i felt i had to share Jean Michel and his story with you. The exhibition concluded with Warhol’s variations on Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, one of the largest series of his career. Together, these works provide an important framework for understanding Warhol’s late career by showing how he simultaneously incorporated the screened image and pursued a reinvention of painting.
They also had some great videos and magazines that Warhol produced to give you a fairly comprehensive overview of both the artists creations and his environments. All in all a wonderful and very special experience.