Beyond the Brand: new Warhol exhibition unearths rarely-seen art treasures

The Andy Warhol exhibition ‘Beyond the Brand ‘ at Halcyon Gallery

Think you know Warhol? A new exhibition coming to London challenges you to think again.

You can’t possibly work in a creative field without hearing people reference the famous American artist Andy Warhol (1928-1987). In fact, you’ve probably done so yourself a few times. But how much do you really know about him and his art? And how much of it have you actually seen, up close and personal?

Well, if you’d like to either learn about or experience more of the iconic pop artist’s work, here’s some great news. A new Warhol exhibition, Beyond the Brand, is opening in London, celebrating his unique and radical contribution to art history, and displaying many of his most iconic pieces from across his career; including rarely seen original paintings from his Ads series.

Opening tomorrow (18th January), the show runs until 24 March across Halcyon Gallery’s two Mayfair sites, at 29 and 148 New Bond Street in the West End.

Bringing together his most iconic print portfolios, commercial work and rarely seen original canvases, Beyond the Brand will encompass the full range of Warhol’s pictorial inventions and demonstrate the extraordinary power of his unique artistic vision.

The Ads series

Warhol explored the intersection between art and commerce like no other artist in history, an influence that remains strong to this very day. This dynamic was most clearly expressed in his Ads series, which reimagined famous commercials for brands such as Apple, Volkswagen and Chanel No. 5; rendering them with vibrant colours and transforming them into powerful works of art.

These works were created both as a portfolio of prints and as a set of 10 paintings on canvas. Both the silkscreen prints and the paintings will be on show together in the UK for the first time.

As art historian and museum curator Joachim Pissarro’s accompanying essay explains: “Ads is a masterful culmination of Warhol’s career-long interest in the blurred lines between commercialism and fine art, and it resituates these omnipresent themes into a new state-of-the art array consonant with this late era’s zeitgeist.

Andy Warhol, Campbell’s Soup Can (Tomato), Screenprint in colours on a paper bag, 1966. This artwork is on show at Halcyon Gallery.

Andy Warhol, Ads: Chanel, 1985. This artwork is on show at Halcyon Gallery.

Andy Warhol, Anatom (Rado Watches), 1987. This artwork is on show at Halcyon Gallery.

Andy Warhol, Campbell’s Soup I, 1968 (detail). This artwork is on show at Halcyon Gallery.

“These ads radiate themes such as cosmopolitanism, technology, movie stardom, political power, elegance and luxury in a visual vocabulary that was at stark odds with the deceptively homespun, quaint but enchanting output of Warhol’s own wildly successful career as a commercial illustrator thirty years prior.”

In addition to the Ads series, many of Warhol’s most iconic print portfolios will be on display including Marilyn Monroe, Queen Elizabeth II, Chairman Mao, Muhammad Ali and the Endangered Species collection, which, says Kate Brown, ‘is a much-loved portfolio and still very relevant today.’

Other highlights include Warhol’s portrait of football legend Pelé, his painting of Mount Vesuvius and a canvas depicting a watch by Swiss brand Rado, produced in the final months of his life.

Soup Cans and Mickey

Perhaps Warhol’s best-known works were his famed Soup Cans, which came to symbolise Pop Art’s celebration of everyday objects and popular culture. It’s difficult to convey to a modern audience how shocking this was. Until Pop Art, art was all about high culture and commerce was about low culture; the two seemingly diammetrically opposed. Bringing the two together in this way was truly a revolutionary act.

Halcyon Gallery’s smaller exhibition space, at 29 New Bond Street, is now giving visitors a chance to see these iconic artworks in person. They’re accompanied by ephemera that illustrates the extraordinary impact that the artist’s best-known motif has had on culture, including a Campbell’s Soup Box, a vibrant three-dimensional canvas that was commissioned by Campbell’s to commemorate the launch of a new product in 1986.

Elsewhere, the immersive room in 148 New Bond Street will feature the much-admired Andy Mouse portfolio by Keith Haring, portraying Warhol as Mickey Mouse, swimming in dollar bills and dancing in a nightclub.

These works are a testament to the remarkable influence of Warhol on artists like Haring and Jean Michel-Basquiat, as well as the changing face of the New York art scene. It’s also a timely display, in the year when the original Mickey Mouse officially goes out of copyright.

This immersive space takes inspiration from Haring’s ‘Pop Shop’ to celebrate the convergence of graffiti art and fine art, that took place for the first time in the 80s, and for which Warhol was a crucial driving force.

Andy Warhol inspired skateboards on show at Halcyon Gallery.

Andy Warhol, Gems, 1978. This artwork is on show at Halcyon Gallery.

Seismic contribution

“This exhibition is a comprehensive overview of Warhol’s creative life, from his earliest artworks and illustrations to the last works he ever produced,” says Kate Brown, creative director and curator at the gallery. “Visitors will be given an overarching view of his entire career, including the chance to see many of his iconic portfolios in their entirety.

“Warhol’s seismic contribution to the story of art is that he tied his work to a collective consciousness more closely than any other artist had before. His art is a pure reflection of popular culture in his lifetime and the spirit of western capitalism.”

As Pissarro writes: “Andy Warhol’s revolutionary contributions to art history are often measured through his paintings, particularly their power, subject matter, technique and reception: huge canvases, immense personalities, gargantuan sums garnered at auction… What made his paintings so bold and new was, by contrast, the increasingly mechanistic techniques he used to create his compositions.

“As his paintings grew increasingly removed from the idea of individuality, he introduced new, cutting-edge elements to his prints. The relationship between the two worlds is a bit like an artistic Turing test: as the two arenas, painting and printmaking developed in tandem, they marched inexorably towards an almost, but not quite, asymptotic singularity. Never the twain would meet, but Warhol would not cease to blur the boundaries as much as he could.

“[This] exhibition provides a precious opportunity to look back at the history of Warhol’s printmaking practice and look afresh at several series that illuminate fundamental truths about the famously enigmatic artist’s worldview.”

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