Andy Warhol claimed “Good business is the best art” and indeed he was right. The art industry has become a huge profitable business in which names like Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami and above all of them Warhol have become synonyms of successful brands (and avid businessmen). The show was originally going to be called Sold Out – a much better title, given most of the artists’ exploration and sometimes celebration of the evils of commerce – but one of the artists took offense (guess who?).
“Art in a material world” argues that Warhol’s most radical lesson is reflected in the work of artists of subsequent generations who, rather than simply representing or commenting upon our mass media culture, have infiltrated the publicity machine and the marketplace as a deliberate strategy. Harnessing the power of the celebrity system and expanding their reach beyond the art world and into the wider world of commerce, these artists exploit channels that engage audiences both inside and outside the gallery. The conflation of culture and commerce is typically seen as a betrayal of the values associated with modern art; this exhibition contends that, for many artists working after Warhol, to cross this line is to engage with modern life on its own terms.
The exhibition is organized in 17 rooms with works that go from Warhol’s Gems series (which playfully spoof the artist’s own awestruck fascination with the trappings of wealth)…
Keith Haring’s Pop Shop or Cosey Fanni Tutti’s provocative performances to the so-called YBA (focused on their early performative exploits including ephemera from Tracey Emin and Sarah Lucas’s shop in Bethnal Green where they created and sold their work)….
or Takashi Murakami’s Akihabara Majokko Princess (Takashi has known how to radically expand Warhol’s model of factory production and forged a distinctively Japanese form of Pop art).
“Pop Life: Art in a Material World” will travel to the Hamburger Kunsthalle from 6 February – 9 May 2010 and then to the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa from 11 June – 19 September 2010.