It might seem like a game of now you see him, now you don’t, but Andy Warhol’s Tate Modern exhibition is back again. The show, which represents the first large scale retrospective of the artist’s work at the gallery in over twenty years, opened on the 12th of March to great fanfare, only to close again on the 17th of March due to the Coronavirus Crisis.
Now, however, the blockbuster is back, in the form of a free to view You Tube video. The Andy Warhol Virtual Tour is a curator led walk around the main room of the Tate exhibition, featuring a selection of the 100 or so works featured in the show.
Best known for his iconic pop images of Marilyn Monroe, Coca-Cola and Campbell’s soup cans, Andy Warhol was a true giant of pop art during a period when the art form came of age in the world of art.
Warhol was a master at taking the elements of Americana, whether a celebrity photo, a coca cola bottle or a Campbell’s soup can, and transforming each one into a work of art. In doing so, the artist continually interrogated the relationship between art, advertising, consumerism and celebrity culture.
The Tate’s new exhibition showcases the majority of Warhol’s major works, as well as presenting some of the artist’s lesser known pieces. Included in this latter category are Warhol’s series of portraits of ethnic minority drag queens, entitled the Ladies and Gentlemen series.
The inclusion of the portraits, which are being shown for the first time in thirty years, represent a real coup for the Tate. “It is one of Warhol’s biggest series of works but probably the least known,” said Fiontán Moran, co-curator of the Tate show.
Another co-curator, Gregor Muir, described the joy of first discovering the works: “I had heard there might be these paintings in existence and I met the people who own them now and I went to visit them… they were mostly in storage and it was just very beautiful and exciting to… handle them and start to look through each and every work.”
The portraits represent a fascinating snapshot of a group of LGBT+ people at a time when their rights were being systematically denied. The sitters, who were all recruited from the same New York bar, include such key figures in the Stonewall movement as Marsh Johnson. Johnson would go on to found an important community action group (the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) after the riots.
Other highlights of the new exhibition will include a rarely seen portrait of Debbie Harry and a 10-metre-wide canvas titled Sixty Last Suppers, which is said to be among the artist’s final works.
You can access the Andy Warhol Virtual Tour here.
If you’d like information on other great art exhibitions in London, please click here.