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With more than 100 previously unseen works from the Hall Collection, this expertly curated exhibition offers new insights into the life and work of Andy Warhol, while also revealing something about the personality of the collector.
With a figure as well known as Andy Warhol (1928-87), whose works are so instantly recognisable, it might seem an impossible task to put on an exhibition and keep it fresh and interesting for the public. The current exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum, however, which features more than 100 previously unseen works, spanning the whole of Warhol’s career, contains many surprises. Curated by Sir Norman Rosenthal, from the collection of Andrew and Christine Hall, it – in the words of the Ashmolean’s director, Xa Sturgis – more than “puts paid to the idea of Warhol as a spent force in the 70s and 80s”.
In stark contrast to the stunning, high-reaching wall in the central gallery, hung with Warhol’s more recognisable commissioned screen prints of celebrities (including Joseph Beuys, Paul Anka and Maria Shriver), the final room focuses on his last year of life, showing only black-and-white prints, many with religious and existential themes. Another section features drawings, proving that Warhol was a talented draughtsman: “He had a natural line, which was every bit as beautiful as Matisse,” says Rosenthal, for whom these late drawings were a “revelation”. Highlights of the first room include a group of artists’ portraits and a series of prints of Watson Powell, a successful but unknown businessman, who came to be known as “the American Man”. Alongside this, a small side room acts as a screening room, showing looped excerpts from Empire (1964) and Sleep (1963) alongside Eat (1963), Kiss (1963) and Screen Tests (1964-65). Every corner of space has been used and the exhibition feels representative without being crowded.
Andy Warhol: Works from the Hall Collection
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
4 February – 15 May 2016
Interview by ANNA McNAY
Filmed by MARTIN KENNEDY