Thoughts about "Warhol 1968" Moderna Museet Stockholm

November 9, 2018


Apparently, Andy Warhol’s first solo museum exhibition was held at Moderna Museet, Stockholm.

It was curated by Pontus Hultén in the year 1968. "Warhol 1968", exhibiting between 15.9 2018 – 17.2 2019 at Moderna Museet is an exhibition about this exhibition. This in joins a long time curatorial trend of reexamining historic Art shows. I’m a superfan of Andy Warhol and as a curator geek (it's a thing right?) so I wanted to check it out.

The official text reports this show is "an attempt to explore the complexity of Warhol's oeuvre from the perspective of the pivotal year of 1968."

"Warhol 1968" is shown in the medium size space on the 2nd floor of this lovely museum.

I was expecting a time capsule, an exact remake of the same exhibition at the same location with every piece just as it was. Time travel magic. But life is full of disappointments.
What is actually exhibited is a hybrid of a historic exhibition and an average Warhol art exhibition.

All the Warhols from the museum’s collection in one space-some of them were in the original show and some were not.

Somehow I feel like instead of reading information about this exhibition from 68', I could have experienced it. (Why not time travel magic?)

Don’t get me wrong - this show is full of both iconic and rare works by the legend: Marilyn Monroe in Black and White (1962), Brillo Boxes (1964), Chelsea Girls (1966), Ten-Foot Flowers (1967), Electric Chair (1967), Mao (1973), and Cows (1982–1987).
The Warhol superfan wasn't let down, however, the curator geek was-for sure.

The exhibition design is dominant and aggressive. The walls are covered with print and glossy reflective foil just like at "The Factory", Warhol's New York City legendary studio. It felt as if the design and the actual work were clashing - competing almost.

The wonderful thing about a Warhol original print nowadays is its surface, slightly faded and broken- like a fine find in a vintage shop. The texture of a “first edition” of an underground zine that now is being collected and is examined as a case study in academia. As collectors might describe-slightly worn but overall very good, almost excellent but not mint. How can those prints from the sixties in this condition compete with absolutely pristine, off-the-rack, perfect - brand new digital print reproductions? Is this intentional? To confuse us viewers with the question of the source and original in Warhol's work ? I don’t think so.

 

I gaze upon the glossy prints, huge size silk printed canvases, art book imprisoned in a glass dome pedestal, casual paintings, record covers, and framed polaroids, I lay on some  cushions watching the long film- I can't help feeling the luxury that comes with being around millions and millions of dollars worth of objects.  Besides that, I feel nothing, I think nothing.

 

Ironically enough I did however found out a lot of “funny” details regarding budget issues the 1968 exhibition encountered. The metallic clouds were made out of a less expensive transparent plastic were therefore not so metallic and were filled with plain air not helium, therefore not so cloudy.

So this low budget version was so far from the original it's simply another work completely.

 

The Brillo boxes were, in fact, original Brillo cardboard boxes from the Brillo factory (not Warhol originals). It was a "creative" solution to cut shipping costs. A fact that could have been forgiven due to the exhibition's very low budget. However much later a Brillo boxes scandal took place regarding the question of 105 boxes and their authenticity as official artworks. Despite knowing about the lack of value as artworks Hultén faked and sold Brillo boxes in 1990 for a cool million (SEK). Those were unauthorized fakes manufactured in Malmö, therefore, declared worthless in 2007. Pontus Hultén died in 2006. Funny.

 

The original 1968 catalogue which is considered to be a collector's item. It is very special because it doesn’t actually catalogue the artworks in the exhibition. Nor does it offers articles and analysis through articles as expected in retrospectives. Inside hides fantastic B&W photography some taken by (the young) Stephen Shore and quotes by Warhol himself. Gathered and printed as if to be used as keys to decode his controversial praxis (?) Printed in the cost of 1$ is now valued at 1,300$.

 

Actually, a full exhibition dedicated solely to the issue of this book would have been exciting.

 

In an article published in the Museum's site, Olle Granath writes that duo that volume of writings about Warhol existed in 1968 could fit in a single Brillo box now in 2018, it is two truckloads. This is amusing considering this specific quote by Warhol“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. There’s nothing behind it,”

 

It is surprising yet true- ‘In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes,’ isn't a Warhol quote but hearsay from Pontus Hultén that wished to include it in the book. In other words, it isn't true. Yet, as far as I’m concerned everything being written and said about Warhol is somewhat true. Or to take American writer, curator, and art historian, Douglas Crimp’s Idea - Everyone gets the Warhol they deserve** the Swedes too- and what they see now is the Warhol that is undeniable- part of modern Art history.

However this wasn't always the case- the Warhol exhibition in 1968 was criticized as American propaganda (!) Major newspapers wrote extensively how Warhol is – "An artist from the capitalist state of the USA whose art is based on consumerism and popular culture!" and that: "Sweden prefers artist Claes Oldenburg’s version to Pop art"( Claes Oldenburg was born in Stockholm) and that "Warhol's images lost meaning and remain superficial".

I believe the key to understanding the shift in the attitude towards Warhol is to look into politics and culture between Sweden and America, that love-hate relationship. The fact is Warhol wasn’t popular in Sweden due to this political climate in the late sixties. After living in Sweden for a few years I feel it’s safe to say the only nation outside Scandinavia that gets the Swedes all hot and bothered is the US. It is the only place the Swedes truly immigrated to in big numbers*. The period that started in 1968 marked cold political relations between Sweden and the U.S. Mainly because of the Swedish government's vocal opposition to the Vietnam War.

 

In any way, to realize all of this is a positive notion and a lesson to learn from this new exhibition- which I’m afraid to say I preferred the articles surrounding it to the actual show- However I wrote in the guestbook (yes there was a guestbook) “great” or “really great”.

 

 

The aftermath

 

As mentioned in the “Warhol 1968” wall text- During 1968, A few months after the exhibition closed- Andy Warhol was shot by Valerie Solanas.

Valerie Solanas, who wrote “SCUM Manifesto”***, Knew Warhol from when he hired her to perform in his film, "I, a Man"(1967). Yet another interesting Sweden-Warhol fact is that he created the movie as a response to the popular erotic Swedish-Danish film" I, a Woman" (1965).

Warhol never really physically recovered from the shooting injury, and on 22 February 1987, he died from complications following a gall bladder operation.

 

14 months after, on April 25, 1988, at the age of 52, Solanas also died of pneumonia

Her legacy to Feminism is undeniable.

In 2007 Swedish author Sara Stridsberg wrote a semi-fictional novel about Solanas called Drömfakulteten (English: The Dream Faculty). The book's narrator visits Solanas toward the end of her life at the Bristol Hotel. Stridsberg wrote two novels about Valerie Solanas, as well as a translation SCUM manifesto to Swedish.

 

To sum up, Andy Warhol was what Solanas would call a “Great Artist”.

To clarify according to her this is not a compliment at all, then again to be SCUM definitely is.

As I read S.C.U.M. I’m thinking oh man I wish I could write half as good as that.

 I hope I avoided glorification of both Warhol and Solanas in this post because

I personally think they were a bit of both- scums and great artists.

 

The Exhibition Warhol 1968 is showing at Moderna Museet

between 15.9 2018 – 17.2 2019

Curated by: John Peter Nilsson

Stockholm, Sweden

 

*- Throughout much of the 19th and early 20th centuries, 1.3 million Swedes emigrated to the United States.

**-In reference to the article “Getting the Warhol We Deserve”, Douglas Crimp, Social Text-No. 59 (Summer, 1999), pp. 49-66 Published by: Duke University Press.

***- SCUM Manifesto is a radical feminist manifesto by Valerie Solanas, published in 1967.

 

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