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.
“Warhol totally understood how as an artist the myth is demanded of you whether you want it or not,” said Wood.
The exhibition will begin with Warhol’s late works including his role as a television personality and publisher.
It will look at how others developed his ideas and include a recreation of Martin Kippenberger’s 1993 show where he appeared as a protagonist in many of the works and Emin’s first solo show in 1994 grandiosely entitled “My Major Retrospective 1963-1993.”
There will be a full-scale reconstruction of Keith Haring’s Pop Shop in New York where he sold branded, editioned objects ranging from posters to toys aimed at a mass audience.
A gallery will also be dedicated to the YBAs in the early 1990s, and Hirst’s 2008 sale at Sotheby’s in London where he raised 111 million pounds ($168.4 million) by selling over 200 works especially created for the auction.
Hirst deliberately bypassed the traditional dealer network and went direct to an auction house which Wood said was “tainted by commerce” in the eyes of many.
“Damien Hirst, from the very beginning, has wanted to do things on his own terms and not waited for the existing order to recognize and sanction what he does,” she told reporters.
Editing by Paul Casciato