The world after Warhol: MoMA exhibition tracks the Pop artist's influence

They hope to back up their bold claim that Warhol "had the greatest impact of any artist in the past 50 years"


New York

“I’m starting to think of Andy Warhol’s impact like a meteor striking the earth,” says Mark Rosenthal, the organiser and guest curator of “Regarding Warhol: Sixty Artists, Fifty Years” at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. “He created a new topography. And in that topography there are new rivers that form, many things change, to which people adapt. I’m coming to think that Warhol did change the world and had the greatest impact of any artist in the past 50 years.”

It’s a thought-provoking statement, but “we’re prepared to argue it” says Marla Prather, the show’s co-curator and the Met’s curator of Modern and contemporary art. “In terms of how Warhol keeps returning to us in the larger cultural theatre of media, ­television, music, enterprise and even covers for your iPhone, ask yourself, ‘Is there anyone who’s had a bigger ­influence?’”

Taking cues from other shows over the past decade that highlighted the influence of artistic giants such as Paul Cézanne and Pablo Picasso, the Met calls “Regarding Warhol” the first major exhibition to explore Warhol’s influence on his contemporaries and younger generations in depth. Alongside 45 works by Warhol such as Red Jackie, 1964, and Green Coca-Cola Bottles, 1962, the Met has brought together 100 works by around 60 other artists that Prather says have “reacted, reinterpreted and responded”, to Warhol’s work, including Alex Katz, Deborah Kass, Jeff Koons, Elizabeth Peyton, Hans Haacke, Chuck Close, Barbara Kruger, Anselm Kiefer, Ai Weiwei and Ryan Trecartin.

Explaining the genesis of the ­exhibition, Rosenthal says: “I was struck by how often I read that Warhol is the most influential artist of the past 50 years. Every time I saw that statement [however], the writer never said anything afterwards. So I asked, ‘Why is he? Or how is he? Compared with who?’” Rosenthal wanted to answer those questions and whether it was all “a ­ridiculous idea” with a full exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), where he has worked as an adjunct curator since 2007.

But due to the DIA’s recent financial problems, the Metropolitan Museum began to take over “Regarding Warhol” about two years ago, with Rosenthal still in place as its curator, and the five themes that he had defined for the show: newspapers and magazines, celebrity portraiture, queer ­studies, ­appropriation, and a wider final section on “business, collaboration and spectacle”.

For the exhibition’s catalogue, which includes an essay by Rosenthal on the five themes, Prather interviewed 13 artists about their artistic relationships to Warhol. She says that the museum took account of whether artists wanted their work to appear in an exhibition about Warhol’s influence, and that Katz was “on the fence” about being included. “Alex is still talking about what Warhol took from him,” Prather says. She mentions that during their interview, she told him: “ ‘Alex, if you feel that Andy stole from you, now’s the time to go on record [laughs].’ People are still absorbing and still ­fighting it. So I don’t think that these artists live in the shadow of Warhol. They’re individuals in their own right who have taken Warhol’s ideas and stretched them beyond what we could have ever imagined.”

The exhibition, which is sponsored by the financial services firm Morgan Stanley, is planned to include an educational programme and an audio tour narrated by the film-maker and actor John Waters.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'The world after Warhol'