Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin:

"Andy Warhol. Velvet Rage and Beauty"

until October 6, 2024

Andy Warhol is arguably one of the most widely known and discussed artists of the twentieth century. While his depictions of consumer products and celebrities became household famous, there is a newly identified red thread through his career, starting in the late 1940s until his untimely death in the 1980s: a continuous searching to visualize his ideal of beauty, mostly male beauty, finding form and creating lasting images of what Warhol desired. Neue Nationalgalerie is for the first time putting together a large survey focused on Warhol’s search for a certain ideal beauty and shows that it is a central aspect and red thread throughout the artist’s different production phases and stages of career, from the 1940s to the 1980s. Bringing together more than 300 works, paintings, prints, drawings, photographs, Polaroids, films and collages, the exhibition allows an expansive and inclusive insight into a Warhol, that during his lifetime never had a real “coming-out”.

From the early drawings to his screen tests and films in 1960s, the torso paintings in the 1970s, through his collaborations with Jean-Michel Basquiat in 1980s, and countless photographs throughout all periods, there is a constant exploration to express this ideal and quest for beauty. When one looks closely and deeply at Warhol’s work, it becomes apparent that his artistic practice is intimately engaged with the body. In all mediums, he provocatively explores the body’s beauty and flaws, fragility and strength, as well as his own insecurities and torments in many self-portraits. During his lifetime many of these works on the human body were either considered inappropriate, immoral, deviant – or even pornographic or illegal. As a result, many of these works received little exposure in the art world and never became known to a wider public.

The exhibition "Andy Warhol: Velvet Rage and Beauty" takes its title as an homage to the book The Velvet Rage (2005) by Alan Downs that describes how it feels to grow up and live as a gay man in a predominantly straight world. Warhol died in 1987 at the age of only fifty-eight. He left an incredibly complex and influential body of work, but during his lifetime never experienced the open acceptance that we now have to look at these specific bodies of work. As this openness to queerness seems at risk again today through changes in so many societies, the exhibition takes on Berlin in 2024 as a window of opportunity, to bring these works together for the first and hopefully not for the last time.

Want to find out more about the exhibition?
In that case, we recommend the latest episode of the WELTKUNST podcast "Was macht die Kunst".
In episode 44, Lisa Zeitz speaks with Klaus Biesenbach and Lisa Botti about the exhibition in Berlin.

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