Yesterday, I moved to Munich (well, Türkenfeld to be precise, since no student can afford a room in Munich) and I went to the Reading Andy Warhol exhibition at the Museum Brandhorst, right away. As my internship at the Pinakotheken im Kunstareal/Museum Brandhorst starts tomorrow, I wanted to see the exhibition before the beginning of my work experience. I simply like to be prepared and since all museums are closed on Mondays, in Germany, I rushed to the Brandhorst to catch a first glimpse.
The first positive thing I noticed: on Sundays the admission price is 1€! The second positive thing was: lots of great Warhol related literature and DVDs in the Museum's shop. It was hard not to give in to the temptation of buying things I can't afford, although it's just a matter of time until I cave in.
The exhibition itself starts with one of Warhol's early Self-Portraits and continues with several rooms in which books, drawings and some screen-prints are on display. The first room, like most of the others, is dimly lit which is, as I assume, due to the many drawings and light sensitive prints that are on display. In general, everything is very well readable (although my grandma might have trouble to decipher some of the handwritten texts by Warhol). However, print texts in German and English are provided throughout the exhibition.
The objects on display are accompanied by famous Warhol quotes projected onto the walls giving each room a nice accent. From Warhol's early cat books, 25 Cats Named Sam and One Blue Pussy and Holy Cats, to the prints he did about the assassination of J.F.K, my favourite part of the exhibition was the display of his famous shoe drawings and the very early drawings of boys' and girls' heads and figures.
The shoe drawings show the simple and yet glamorous way in which Warhol understood to do advertising. Although the funny subtitles for each shoe came from a friend, they match the kind of humour one can find in Warhol's Diaries and his 'Philosophy' book. Here, I have to correct myself. The shoe and boy/girl works are not actual drawings but were all done in Warhol's often used blotted line technique which allowed him to reproduce and copy any of his own drawings and also other images. It becomes obvious that, even before his famous screen-print reproductions, Warhol had already developed a way to use the reproduction of his art to his and his costumers' advantage.
Especially, when it comes to the boy/girl 'drawings', which he did in the 40s and 50s, his inclination for reproducible art (later Pop Art) already shines through. It is striking how many of the boys' and girls' faces get by with very few, almost minimalist lines. Facial features are reduced to eyes and mouth. The nose (like in so many of his later screen-prints) is missing or only suggested. I find it extremely intriguing to look at the development of Warhol's art from graphic designer to 'fine artist' since it shows how similar the one and the other are. Both, Warhol the designer as well as Warhol the 'fine' artist, were devoted to reproduction and multiplication of images. The effect in his early drawings as well as in his later 'paintings' is the same: a reduction to clear lines, colours and the leaving-out of 'unnecessary' details. In any case, all of his works were business art and business was Warhol's favourite art (see his 'Philosophy' book).
This is also why I think that the term 'fine artist' (associated with the 18th, 19th and 20th century of les beaux arts) sounds funny in connection with Warhol's work. Graphic design and great art lie pretty close to each other and Warhol seems to occupy the gap in the middle with his own way of greatness attached to each artwork. In general, why is it so important to hold on to the notion of 'fine art', as opposed to graphic design? Still, many critics and philosophers (including Arthur C. Danto) insist that Warhol is a 'fine artist' and commercial and marketing art belong to a different realm. But, why? Strictly speaking, there is no difference in Warhol's work. His graphic design as well as his later paintings are all business art.