New show looks at artists cashing in on celebrity

Tue Sep 29, 2009 2:46pm EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - High-profile contemporary artists like Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst and Takashi Murakami have long embraced Andy Warhol's infamous provocation that "good business is the best art."

A major new exhibition at Tate Modern in London called "Pop Life: Art in a Material World" seeks to show that such a commercial approach to art is not necessarily as cynical as the critical world, and wider public, often say it is.

The featured artists, the show argues, are merely taking control of their images and image, rejecting the old system of patronage and galleries and cutting out the middle man in pursuit of maximum profit, and with it celebrity.

"A question that often comes up about this show is whether it is just about money," said co-curator Catherine Wood.

"The art market, and the money side of that, is really boring. But money comes into this show in the form of artists taking control of it," she told Reuters.

The exhibition opens with several rooms dedicated to Warhol, who ushered in the world of materialist art with his screens, aggressive self-promotion and open courting of the stars.

It also features Japan's prolific Murakami, who perhaps more than anyone has built his work into a lucrative brand with the help of his own factory and toy figurines.

The show, which runs from October 1 to January 17, 2010, recreates Keith Haring's Pop Shop which he opened in 1986 in New York to merchandise his branded artistic signature as limited edition items like T-shirts, toys and magnets.   Continued...

<p>Japanese artist Takashi Murakami poses with his artwork Kirsten Dunst &amp; McG &amp; Me at the launch of the Pop Life : Art in a Modern World exhibition at the Tate Modern in London September 29, 2009. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor</p>