Tate show to explore artist as celebrity and brand

Tue May 12, 2009 12:46pm EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - A new exhibition at London's Tate Modern later this year will explore Andy Warhol's legacy through artists like Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst, who embody the notion of artist as celebrity and commercial brand.

"Pop Life: Art in a Material World" takes Warhol's saying "good business is the best art" as a starting point and examines how subsequent generations embraced the idea despite the popular conviction that it is a betrayal of what fine art should be.

Some, including Hirst and Tracey Emin who were part of the Young British Artists (YBA) movement of the 1980s and 1990s, set out to make money from the very beginning.

"We've become very familiar with the YBAs here through the media and ... we see them through the lens of their success," said Catherine Wood, co-curator of the show which will run from October 1 to January 17, 2010.

"What's been really interesting ... is to see how much they made a play for success and for being art stars even at a very early point in their careers when they had nothing."

And although Warhol is a key precursor to the YBAs and their U.S. peers, there were others before him who embraced the notion of celebrity and of building the myth around the artist, notably Spanish surrealist Salvador Dali.

"He (Dali) had infiltrated the mass consciousness to a level no one had done before," Wood said.

The show will highlight three themes -- the artist's use of persona to build up a myth, artists increasingly embracing consumerism and commerce and their use of mass media long frowned upon by the world of fine art.   Continued...

<p>An example of modernist architecture, the "La Maison Tropicale" is pictured outside the Tate Modern Gallery in London February 1, 2008. REUTERS/Stephen Hird</p>