Thursday 3 March 2016

Andy Warhol at the Ashmolean

Andy Warhol

at the Ashmolean, Oxford.

'The substance and significance of Andy Warhol's art becomes more evident with each passing decade and this exhibition aims to add to what we know about Warhol by highlighting unfamiliar and surprising works from across his career', Ashmolean director Alexander Sturgis explained.

In collaboration with the Hall Art Foundation, the exhibition includes over 100 paintings, screen prints and drawings. The collection consists of a number of slightly less-viewed works that show a darker side of the artist. The exhibition opens with Warhol's early pop portraits and includes works from key series such as



and the Brillo Soap Pads Box.

The main room of the exhibition is dominated by a display of Warhol's commissioned portraits spanning the 1970s right up to the year before his death. This display highlights Warhol's power as a 20th century portraitist.

Joseph Beuys, 1981, by Andy Warhol.

Joseph Beyus.

As we progressed through the exhibition the works became darker showing Warhol's obsession with death and with his own mortality. This fear of death began when Valerie Solanas shot him in 1968 and concluded when Warhol checked into hospital in 1987 for a gallbladder operation that proved fatal.

The Map of Eastern USSR Missile Bases aimed at America is not a political statement, but a statement of death.

666 The Mark of the Beast

is another of his late paintings.

Heaven and Hell are Just One Breath Away (positive), 1985‒86, by Andy Warhol.

Heaven and Hell are Just One Breath Away (image taken from the Guardian)

An untitled Oxidisation painting from 1978.

I had not seen his oxidation paintings before. Warhol and his associates at the Factory made them by urinating on copper paint.

Despite the crowds we enjoyed this exhibition and it was a treat being able to see some of his lesser-known work, a lot of which I was unfortunately, not able to photograph, as photography was not allowed.


  1. I hated it! I had the gallery to myself but found myself thinking all the lines about emporers and new all seemed such a con trick. You take an idea, work it to death. I particularly hated the portraits which were traced with carpenter's pencil to take away the artist's input...I guess it raises all the issues about the role of the artist but...

    1. What a shame, Avril!

      Even though I would not call myself a fan, I am interested in and intrigued by Warhol and I always enjoy seeing his work. It's about trying to understand the impact he's had on contemporary art, I guess.

      As for the tracing of the portraits from photographs, I thought the curator dealt with that well, explaining why he did that despite the fact that he was a skilled and competent draughtsperson. Part of the interest in the artist, for me....