Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal highlights

The key works on show from the legendary pop art pioneer

As a major retrospective of legendary pop art pioneer Andy Warhol’s iconic work comes to the Shanghai Power Station of Art, Time Out selects some of the key works on show.

To mark the 25th anniversary of his death, an expansive retrospective of Andy Warhol’s work will be shown in Asia from 2012-2014. Celebrating the man who coined the phrase ‘fifteen minutes of fame’, Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal, consists of over 300 paintings, photographs, screen prints, 3D installations and sculptures, and has already visited Singapore and Hong Kong. 

This month it comes to Shanghai – minus an important edition. Eight silk screen paintings of Mao Zedong will be absent (they are, unsurprisingly, considered too risqué a portrayal of the Great Leader to be exhibited on the Mainland). Nevertheless, the show at the Shanghai Power Station of Art, the cavernous gallery on the former Puxi Expo site, represents the largest collection of Warhol’s art ever seen here.

We pick our favourite works which will be showing – pieces which also, in their time and in their own way, caused no small amount of contention and controversy.

Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal is at the Shanghai Power Station of Art from Sunday 29 April - July 26. See full event details.

Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore

All images copyright AWF
Hamburger (1985-86)

Hamburger (1985-86)

In The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, Warhol declared: ‘Making money is art, and working is art and good business is the best art.’ The 1980s marked a celebration of the art of selling. Warhol tapped into this by creating images from tracing newspaper advertisements, then in their heyday. ‘Hamburger’ is one such red, white and yellow piece fashioned from acrylic on linen.

  At face value ‘Hamburger’ is just that: a hamburger and perhaps America’s favourite national dish. But look further and other themes emerge. ‘Hamburger’ has the hallmarks of both a mushroom cloud from a nuclear explosion and a halo. At the time, both would have garnered recognition due to the Cold War the United States was still fighting with Russia. Across his career, Warhol depicted both the solemn and the lighthearted – from the electric chair to food items such as ‘Hamburger’ – using identical techniques.

Campbell’s Soup 1 Tomato (1968)

Campbell’s Soup 1 Tomato (1968)

In 1962, when Warhol’s ‘Campbell’s Soup Cans’ were first exhibited – each of the cans the same as the last except for the ingredients on the label – it was an instant triumph.

  Displayed on shelves which mimicked a shop, the so called silkscreen ‘portraits’ pushed household America into high art. The number of paintings, 32 in total, corresponded to the different types of Campbell’s Soups then sold. It was a product Warhol did not tire of – either creating or consuming (the artist claims to have eaten Campbell’s Soup every day for lunch for two decades). 

His ‘Campbell’s Soup Cans’ have since become synonymous with the birth of Pop Art. But the idea did not come from Warhol. It was the curator Muriel Latow who first suggested that Warhol paint soup cans. The artist gave her a cheque of 50USD in return.

Self-Portrait (1986)

Self-Portrait (1986)

This self-portrait – one of Warhol’s last – was made in the year before he died in 1987 in New York from complications following gall bladder surgery. For Warhol, art was as much public performance and the public’s perception as original creation.

  Over the years he made dozens of self portraits and carefully crafted his own public persona – a persona which, arguably, became as famous as his art works. In this image, Warhol makes ample use of a spiky bright ‘fright’ wig (he owned more than 40 wigs) set against chalk white skin and bushy dark eyebrows. He looks intently at the viewer, almost inviting them to challenge him. Is there anything deeper there?

  According to Warhol, no. ‘If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface: of my paintings and films and me, and there I am,’ he once said. ‘There’s nothing behind it.’

Jackie (1964)

Jackie (1964)

In 1963 American president John F. Kennedy was assassinated. In ‘Red Jackie’, a silkscreen created a year later, his wife is placed in defiance against a backdrop of blood red. She is in control; her red painted lips curve faintly upwards in a confident smile.

 Yet, between 1963 and 1968 Warhol made a series of Jackie images, showing her transformation from chic First Lady to a woman in mourning, including this 1964 ‘Jackie’ where she looks vulnerable and her grainy black image is washed out by a blue background. Another memorable depiction is ‘16 Jackies’, in which four photographs of Jackie around the time of the death of her husband were each reproduced four times. By doing this, Warhol mimicked the continually replayed news coverage which barely satiated a nation obsessed with Kennedy’s stoic wife. But the Jackie series also represented something more transient: celebrity. As with his iconic image of another unlucky woman, Marilyn Monroe, Warhol had captured the fleeting nature of fame and life.

Heinz Tomato Ketchup Box (1964)

Heinz Tomato Ketchup Box (1964)

This ‘Heinz Tomato Ketchup Box’ – created from silkscreen ink and house paint on plywood – was originally part of the 1964 exhibition The American Supermarket held at the Bianchini Gallery, New York.

The exhibit forced the audience to confront their preconceptions of art as sacrosanct. Here was a gallery done up to look like your average supermarket. Except that every product inside – from the food to the posters advertising goods – was produced by pop artists including Mary Inman, Billy Apple, Robert Watts and of course Warhol.

The Heinz box, alongside Warhol’s ‘Kellogg’s Corn Flakes Box’ and ‘Brillo Soap Pad Box’, were wooden replicas of the cardboard originals. Warhol’s critics said he was pandering to mass-produced consumerism. But for him, these super-brands equalled egalitarianism. ‘What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest,’ Warhol wrote in 1975. ‘You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coca-Cola, Liz Taylor drinks Coca-Cola, and just think, you can drink Coca-Cola, too.’