It’s a good year for Pop Art and for Andy Warhol with exhibitions at the Gagosian in Britannia Street, London, the Ashmolean in Oxford, plus his massive installation “Shadows” on display in the Guggenheim in Bilbao. Now the two floors of the Halycon Gallery in New Bond Street London are filled with his work from the 1950’s onwards, reflecting the continued interest in Warhol, pop-art culture and the ongoing fascination with brand and identity whether of objects, people or classic images, which the luxury shops in New Bond Street perpetuate.
The highlight of the exhibition, displayed in its own room almost as if in a shrine reached by a staircase which pilgrims have to climb on their knees, is the full series of ten prints of different Campbell’s Soups displayed, as Warhol wished, as if they were super-sized cans stacked on a supermarket shelf, while the remainder of the exhibition shows the variety of icons which attracted his attention: sportsmen like Muhammed Ali, political leaders like Chairman Mao, status symbols like Chanel perfume, cartoon figures such as Mickey Mouse and Superman and film idols such as Judy Garland, John Wayne and Ingrid Bergman, along with historic American figures General Custer and Geronimo. Icons from the world of music are Elvis Presley on the one hand and Beethoven on the other, derived from Joseph Karl Stieler’s painting of 1819.
There are links back to other iconic classical paintings. His interpretation of “The Birth of Venus” is currently included in the Botticelli exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, but here are details of other Renaissance paintings (Leonardo de Vinci’s “The Annunication” and Paulo Uccello’s “St George and The Dragon”.)
Neuschwanstein Castle is both an architectural icon linking to its builder, King Ludwig II of Bavaria, and also a 20th century icon providing the inspiration for the castle in Disney’s film “Sleeping Beauty”.
The exhibition includes five of Warhol’s portfolios of 10 images, including “Cowboys and Indians”, derived from his collection of Native American images and artefacts, “Endangered Species” linking to an ongoing interest in conservation and the environment and “Myths” a 20th century American equivalent of Mount Olympus and the Greek myths where good always won over evil.
More personally, the exhibition includes the full set of 25 lithographs “Love is a Pink Cake” from 1953 including poems written by his lover Ralph Thomas Ward at the beginning of their relationship.
A full exhibition showing many of Warhol’s series of iconic works, reflective of the art of the pop era and the fascination with cult and brand which continues into the 21st century.