After a successful career in advertising illustration, Andy Warhol (b. 1928) decided in the early 1960s to work as an independent artist. The world of consumption, of the media and mass industry remained his central interest. The exhibition at the Kunstmuseum Basel
focuses on the years between 1961 and 1964, the formative period of Warhol as a painter and graphic artist. During these years, he undertook a fundamental renovation of pictorial expression. As early as the mid-1960s, he opened his oeuvre toward other media, toward the operation of his Factory, the music business, and film.
In this period of only four years, Andy Warhol initiated a turn in the history of art whose consequences can be felt to this day. Step by step, he replaced the individual visual language of painting with imagery that had already been disseminated by media and thus become collective as well as mechanical pictorial procedures. The exhibition illustrates this development in Warhols oeuvre. It is especially evident in pictures such as Before and After, which was based on an advertisement for cosmetic surgery; Warhol painted several versions, one of which may still show traces of a gestural-expressive painting process, while anotherthough still painted by handalready radiates diagrammatic reduction and coolness. Specifically selected groups of works demonstrate his use of the principles of repetition and seriality, especially after he discovered photographic serigraphy for himselfa technique that enabled him to transform photographic originals directly into large-format paintings. The paintings and drawings of Campbells Soup Cans and Dollar Bills illustrate the range of Warhols oeuvre from the gestural beginnings to the growing use of printing techniques. These works are complemented by archival materials from Andy Warhols estate, offering the visitor glimpses into the artists studio praxis and information about his visual sources and technical methods. For instance, Warhol experimented with 3-D techniques that were popular at the time. The exhibition culminates with the famous Star series showing Elvis and Liz, one room of works from Death & Disaster, and the first Flowers series of 1964.
The exhibition features altogether around seventy paintings and drawings, including important works from the Kunstmuseum Basels own collections as well as loans from private collections and renowned museums such as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Metropolitan Museum, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; and the Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh.