Andy Warhol exhibition at the AGO runs July 21 to October 24, 2021 (includes review)
In 1964, Andy Warhol founded “The Factory,” his 47th Street Manhattan studio, where he surrounded himself with artists, musicians, writers and underground celebrities. This summer, to celebrate the blockbuster exhibition Andy Warhol opening on July 21, the AGO brings together a similar group of dynamic creatives to explore the artist’s legacy and the enduring appeal of Pop Art. Review below.
An international collaboration between the AGO, Tate Modern, Museum Ludwig and Aspen Art Museum, Andy Warhol features more than 250 artworks, including celebrity portraits, Warhol’s psychedelic multimedia environment Exploding Plastic Inevitable (1966), as well as an installation of his floating metallic pillows, entitled Silver Clouds (1956-66). Warhol charts four decades of art-making in the life of one of the world’s most famous artists, blurring the divide between the art world and popular culture, Warhol (1928 – 1987) funnelled his beliefs and desires into his art, captivating the world with his provocative images and collaborations.
A 20th-century icon at the centre of Pop Art, Andy Warhol was born Andrew Warhola in Pittsburgh, PA, in 1928. Shy, gay and from a working-class, East European immigrant background, Warhol had a unique understanding of American culture and society. Engaging topics such as consumerism, canonical art history, the artist’s Catholic faith and the activities of New York City’s countercultural underground, Warhol’s vast body of work, which includes film and publishing, both reflected and fueled the intense cultural transformations that occurred across the globe in the second half of the twentieth century.
Featuring loans from museums and private collections in Europe and North America, Andy Warhol spans all four decades of the artist’s career. Key works from Warhol’s Pop period include Marilyn Diptych (1962) from Tate Modern, 100 Campbell’s Soup Cans (1962) from Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, and the AGO’s Elvis I and II (1963/4). Also to be included are Warhol’s experimental installations. Exploding Plastic Inevitable (1966), an immersive, psychedelic multimedia environment that involves film projections, disco balls, and the sounds of the experimental rock group The Velvet Underground, encourages audience participation, while Warhol’s Silver Clouds (1965-66) invites visitors to play with metallic pillows that float about the gallery space.
One important theme of the exhibition is Warhol’s sexuality. Foregrounding a selection of early male nudes the artist drew in the 1950s, the exhibition will also include Sleep, a 1963 film that stars his lover, the poet John Giorno, and the 1975 series of paintings Ladies and Gentlemen, which memorializes members of New York City’s transgender community. Another focus of Andy Warhol is the artist’s Catholic faith, particularly his obsession with death, which is prefigured in his haunting 1986 Self-Portrait (Tate, London). Photographs, documents and other contextual material will show how Warhol’s working class, East European background had a profound impact on his life and work.
There have been several exhibitions on Warhol over the years, and this is one of the most detailed, beginning with showcasing some of his earliest sketches from the 1950s. It’s also one of the queerest, not shying away from his male nude collections, torso series, bathhouse interviews, or his drag and trans collections. Also included are many of his self portraits, including him in drag, a wall of Interview Magazine covers, and various video installations, with episodes of Andy Warhol TV, and Andy Warhol’s 15 Minutes of Fame on MTV. Of course, many of his infamous multi-image celebrity and soup can portraits are all on display as well.
The actual experience of attending a public exhibition post-pandemic was a bit chaotic. Tickets are sold on a timed admittance basis, and it seems the majority were all timed within a two-hour frame of opening. The line up stretched around the block, and there was little in the way of safety regulations or testing being done prior to admittance. This caused unnecessary bunching up of guests in an uncomfortable manner. There were capacity numbers written on the floors upon entering each room, which were in no way being monitored or controlled. In fact, when I mentioned this to one of the staff onsite, they stated, “ya, social distancing is pretty much done.”
Once inside, tt was overly crowded and very difficult to maneuver around to actually take time to enjoy the collection. Upon leaving less than an hour later, there were zero people waiting in line, which made me question how the AGO spaced out their timed admissions to adhere to social distancing, or as that one employee stated, that’s “pretty much done.” When booking tickets, I’d definitely suggest booking a time slot later in the afternoon to hopefully have a better experience.
Tickets are on sale now at ago.ca and include general admission. Admission is free for all visitors 25 and under, AGO Members and holders of the $35 Annual Pass. Single tickets are $25.00 per person. The AGO takes safety very seriously, and will strictly adhere to all public health regulations. Visitors are encouraged to visit and review the reopening web page for more information and helpful FAQs, and to self-assess before visiting the Gallery.
Programming highlights for Andy Warhol are below. For more information about these and other online events, visit ago.ca/events.
- Artmaking that pops! On now to July 29, AGO presents Summer Pop!, a series of free online art-making activities for children of all ages inspired by Andy Warhol and the Pop art movement, and generously supported by Herschel Supply Company. Led by AGO Art instructors, participants can tune in every Monday through Thursday between 10:00 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. EST. Themes include Repetition, Colour and Movement. No registration is required, and sessions are live-streamed on ago.ca/summer-pop. Visit ago.ca for a full schedule.
- Inspired by Warhol’s portrait series Ladies and Gentlemen, and in collaboration with Toronto Kiki Ballroom Alliance, the AGO presents free beginner-level dance workshops covering the five elements of Vogue Fem. Happening every Wednesday through August 25, at 3 p.m., Vogue dancing pioneer Twysted will lead class via. Zoom. To register and for more details, visit ago.ca/events/beginner-vogue-workshops.
- On July 29, tune into @agotoronto’s Instagram at 3 p.m. for the free talk What Do We Think about Andy? Inspired by the campy and candid style of Interview Magazine, Toronto-based writer Cason Sharpe joins local artists as they discuss their art practices and Warhol’s daunting legacy. For more details, visit ago.ca/events/what-do-we-think-about-andy.
- On July 26, the AGO’s Close Looking series continues with an audio description about the Warhol painting Elvis I and II (1963;1964) by Assistant Curator of Community Programs, Melissa Smith. The talk will air on AGO’s Facebook Page at 11 a.m. For more details, visit ago.ca/events/close-looking-andy-warhol-creative-audio-description.
- On August 10 at 7 p.m., join acclaimed author and critic Blake Gopnik for a conversation about his recent biography Warhol. Gopnik will discuss Warhol’s working-class upbringing, his development as an artist, his celebrity—and his attempted assassination. To register for this free Zoom talk, stayed tuned to ago.ca/events for details.
- On August 19 at 7 p.m., join AGO curator Kenneth Brummel, art historian Kirstin Ringelberg and artist and activist Ravyn Wngz for Andy Warhol: Ladies and Gentlemen, a conversation about Warhol’s 1975 portrait series of New York’s Latinx and African-American drag queens and trans women. For more information and to register for this free Zoom talk, visit ago.ca/events/andy-warhol-ladies-and-gentlemen.
- On September 8 at 7 p.m., we welcome Karen Kain, Artistic Director Emerita of The National Ballet of Canada, in conversation with AGO curator Kenneth Brummel, for a free Zoom talk about what it feels like to be immortalized on canvas by Warhol. For more information, stay tuned to #AGOToronto and ago.ca/events for ticketing details.
- Andy Warhol marks the debut of BlindSquare powered audio guides at the AGO. The Gallery is the first art museum in Canada to use BlindSquare, which uses a GPS-based navigation app to deliver audio instructions to your smartphone. The system will be used in the exhibition to help guests who are blind or partially sighted with wayfinding and content sharing of exhibition pieces. For more information and how to download, visit ago.ca/agoinsider/wayfinding-art.
- Andy Warhol will feature a Visual Audio Description tour of five artworks in the exhibition including famed works like Dolly Parton (1985) and Elvis I and II (1963;1964). Visitors can access the self-guided tour from their phones by scanning high contrast QR codes located on select panel text inside the exhibition.
Shop & Dine
- In celebration of Andy Warhol, AGO Bistro is presenting Warhol-inspired menus to enjoy at home. Featuring pop-art-inspired delights like Shake ‘n’ Bake Chicken and Cherry Cola Swirl Cake, diners can order the dinner set for takeout, delivery or in-store pickup through Uber Eats. The Afternoon Tea Set is pick-up only and can be ordered online via ago.ca. The AGO Bistro patio opens July 21 at the corner of Dundas St. West and McCaul Streets. For full menus, details on hours and capacity limits for the patio, visit ago.ca/dine/ago-bistro.
- shopAGO invites visitors to add a splash of colour with artful products inspired by Andy Warhol and the Pop art movement. Highlights include Andy Warhol, the 224-page hardcover exhibition catalogue by Gregor Muir and Yilmaz Dziewior; Warhol, an autobiography of the Pop art icon by Blake Gopnik; and a Warhol Limoges plate collection. A full range of products are available online and in Gallery (at the shopAGO store and exhibition satellite shop), to see more visit shop.ago.ca/category/101/600/andy-warhol/.
About the Author
Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.