Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Forget Andy Warhol; Go to the Newseum

The Newseum in Washington, DC, opened near the Mall in 2008. This 7-floor, 653 square-foot building on Pennsylvania Avenue is a museum of photographic, print and broadcast journalism. Its architecture combines ultra-sleek glass with reinforced concrete.

Instead of going to the National Gallery's exhibition, Andy Warhol: Headlines, a trip to the Newseum across the street to learn about real headlines and the history of journalism would be more worthwhile. Warhol had a need for publicity, but that does not make his art interesting and real life news deserves more of the public's attention. The 14 galleries and 15 theaters involve many historic events. A few news programs are broadcast here, including This Week.

Seeing a Warhol in person offers nothing new, unless the colors are wrong in reproduction. Size is the only difference between a real Warhol and a reproduction, but big does not make the art good. A concurrent Warhol exhibition at the Hirshhorn has very large pieces.

In contrast to most large National Gallery exhibitions which are teaming with visitors who can't get their eyes off the paintings, prints or sculptures, a Warhol show gets visitors who walk through the exhibitions without stopping to look very frequently. On the Sunday I was there, no one had bought the $5 acoustiguide.
The photo above is from Wikipedia
Why has the National Gallery mounted a Warhol exhibition? Very wealthy collectors who had been lured into the hype have paid $18 million plus for his works, investments which could be worth little in 100 years. A recent news flash showed that actress Sandra Bullock's son received the gift of a Warhol print; even a one-year old baby is learning to be fashionable. While working at a blue chip Chicago art gallery (not as trendy as Hollywood or New York) in the 80s, I saw how some collectors buy to be in style or flaunt their prosperity rather than for love or interest in art. Collecting Warhol is often for people who fall prey to these scenarios.

A recent PBS
documentary about Warhol showed how many of his ideas were not his own ideas, even the soup cans. Contrary to the myth Warhol perpetuated, he was not the inventor of Pop Art. Better than going to a Warhol exhibition, one is advised to watch the PBS show on DVD or watch his imitators, today's reality trendsetters on TV.

Furthermore, he has completely done a disservice to artists by suggesting that the shallow, narcissistic and capitalistic instinct should be cultivated as art.

Before giving Warhol attention, we should recognize the drug culture he created with many young women and men at The Factory in New York, where workers help him mass produce images. The terrible addictions and deaths that some of these "groupies" experienced should not
be disregarded, as he promoted behavior influencing their demise in order to cultivate followers. Warhol received too much attention in his life and he does not deserve it now.

Instead of looking at his uninspired work, viewers should gaze at some of the stunning photojournalism in the Newseum, works of visionary power and depth which can be both illuminating and moving to viewers. The "Pictures of the Year" exhibition just closed. However, a traveling exhibition of Pulitzer-Prize winning photographs is on view through December 2011.

If you disagree, please feel free to comment on this blog and explain why his art has any value. If Andy is genuinely important, there will be persuasive argumen
ts in Warhol's favor. But if Warhol defenders don't come to the rescue, you will prove my point --- that the public should stay home and avoid these exhibitions. Writing your differences of opinion, just like freedom for artists to express themselves, is all important!

The Newseum is funded by Freedom Forum, a non-partisan group group dedi
cated to freedom of speech, freedom of the press and free spirit for all people. Its mission is "raise public awareness of the important role of a free press in a democratic society" and bring understanding between the public and the press. Like other institutions these days, it has hit hard financial times (isn't it time for the price of an Andy Warhol to go down?) and staff had to be cut. The price of admission is now $21.75. But exhibits are interactive and you can spend an entire day there.

Finally, the true artist is one who would do art regardless of fame or fortune, someone like Van Gogh who sold no paintings in his lifetime but whose art truly moves people to this day. In a hundred years, Warhol will be forgotten because his art is lacking.
Here is a blogger who also has poor things to say about Warhol:



  1. Right on. If I want to see soup cans, I can go to the supermarket.

  2. All your points are well taken. The cult of celebrity in America has reached the outer limits. Take for instance the groupies that stand outside televised trials cheering for defendants or prosecution, or high profile criminals who get marriage proposals. I had no idea Warhol had drugged up groupies helping him mass produce his art. Good that you are informing people of that fact.

  3. Yeah, I agree with the sentiments here. I cast as cold an eye on Warhol as he seemed to on the world.

  4. Its not Warhols art, or his dumb films, but his life that fascinates people because everyone wonders how he was able to gain fame without a real reason.

  5. The fascination with Warhol and the reason that I continue to be amazed by the work he produced was the way in which his mind worked and at times didn't. He was arguably a very disturbed person obsessed with fame and people that were famous that he created works that made him even more famous than some of his peers without even realizing it. His work is both dark and entertaining. I actually really liked both exhibits (at NGA and Hirshorn) and appreciated them for two totally different pieces of what made Warhol a visionary. His strong connection to being famous and connecting to an audience through every day news in one and his true ability to create real art that makes people appreciate his process, use of color and vision.

  6. The art viewing public is mostly interested in Warhol's icons, because of our enormous idealization of Marilyn, Elvis, Jackie O, Elizabeth Taylor. This week a movie comes out on Marilyn. In 50 years, when a new set of icons will be embedded in our shared memory, the memory of Warhol's images will fade, just as Nadar's 19th century photographs of Sarah Bernhardt have faded from our view. In the end, it will be his thoughts that are quoted and the photos of Marilyn's flying skirt will be her main symbol.

  7. So the fools (Warhol collectors) are betting that even bigger fools can be fooled into paying more foolishly high prices.....Tom


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