Exhibition Review: Andy Warhol - Screen Tests, Silver Clouds & Time Capsules

Exhibition Review
By Theopisti Stylianou-Lambert

Andy Warhol, born Andrew Warhola in Pittsburgh of Czech immigrant parents, is firmly established as a major 20th-century artist and fittingly labelled the “Pope of Pop”. Marking the 20th anniversary of the artist’s death in New York in 1987, the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh is hosting a major exhibition of his work. I had the chance to attend the press pre-view of this exhibition, which interestingly attracted the biggest ever sponsorship of modern art in Scotland.

Even though the exhibition offers a superb retrospective of Warhol’s work and I have great respect for any artist that helped shape art history and redefine art philosophy, I admit that I sleepily passed by the notorious Brillo Boxes, his iconic Marilyns, Jackies and Elvises, even his Death and Disaster screenprint series. There are two main reasons for my apparent apathy. First, these iconic pieces are exhibited in various museums and I felt that I have been exposed to enough of them (e.x. the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh; the Menil Collection in Houston; the Dia: Beacon in New York etc.). Second, their aesthetic value is exhausted easily and their shock of the new seems already gone.

Walking through famous piece after famous piece, I was struck by the image on a small TV screen - a four-minute, black and white 1965 silent film, called Screen Test, of Edie Sedgwick. Edie, beautifully hypnotic Edie. Edie was in most of Warhol’s films, became a style icon in the 60s, and helped Warhol emerge as a celebrity. The delicate but daring party doll with the heavy eye make-up, long earrings, and cigarette permanently burning on her lips was made for the spotlight. With her casual aloofness, Edie could pass as a second Audrey Hepburn, another Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Warhol proclaimed: “Edie was incredible on camera – just the way she moved…She was all energy – she didn’t know what to do with it when it came to living her life, but it was wonderful to film. The great stars are the ones who are doing something you can watch every second, even if it’s just a movement inside their eyes.” Warhol was absolutely right. The four-minute film in front of me was magnetizing, almost seductive. Unfortunately, Warhol was also right about Edie not knowing what to do with her energy in real life. The “Poor Little Rich Girl” (as Warhol named her in one of his films) spent a considerable inheritance in a few months and died at the age of 28 of drug abuse. I raised my camera to take a photo when a museum guard in plaid pants and a heavy Scottish accent warned me that the Screen Tests are the only artworks that can not be photographed due to their pending copywrite.

A few days later, on a transatlantic flight I had the chance to watch Edie again. The 2006 movie directed by George Hickenlooper Factory Girl follows her life from an innocent, wide-eyed art student to her abuse and final fall. The film highlights her relationship with Warhol and her affair with Bob Dylan. Even thought not an impressive movie, Factory Girl managed to re-create Warhol’s studio on 231 East 47th Street in New York which was known as the “Factory”. In one shot, Warhol is on the roof of his studio tying up some flowing balloons. These helium-filled silver balloons, called Silver Clouds (1966) are presented as an installation in the National Gallery. This was the press photographers’ favourite room. They were fingering the balloons and in response, they gracefully rose to the sun-lighten ceiling. Looking at the rising reflective substances through their viewfinders, they tried to capture their image with their cameras.

But the real reason for my visit was located in the basement. Warhol was a compulsive shopper and threw nothing out. When the time came to move studios from 33 Union Square to 860 Broadway in 1974, Warhol placed everything in cardboard boxes for the move. He saw this as an excellent way of documenting his life. He explained: “What you should do is get a box for a month, and drop everything in it and at the end of the month lock it up. Then date it and send it over to Jersey…I just drop everything into the same-size brown cardboard boxes that have a colour patch on the side for the month of the year. I really hate nostalgia, though, so deep down I hope they all get lost and I never have to look at them again.” At some point Warhol saw these boxes as a work of art, something that he even might consider selling, and named them Time Capsules. The National Gallery of Edinburgh is exhibiting the contents of 2 out of the 612 Time Capsules. They include correspondences, magazines, books, photographs, business files, cards, newspaper clippings and other. An artwork or not, the time capsules are still largely unexplored territory and are an excellent archival source for studying Warhol’s life and work.

A number of exhibitions celebrating Warhol’s work are currently on view or are coming up in different parts of the world (see exhibition box).

Note: This article was published in ARTERI magazine / Oct.07

Warhol - Current and Upcoming Exhibitions 2007/08

Warhol retrospective
The National Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland
August 4th 2007 – October 7th 2007

Warhol Disaster Prints
Museum Kampa, Prague, Czech Republic
July 19th, 2007 – October 21st, 2007

Silent Spring: Warhol’s Endangered Species and Vanishing Animals Works (MW)
Morris Museum, Morristown, NJ, U.S.A.
September 4th, 2007 – January 6th, 2008

Andy Warhol: Larger Than Life
Winnipeg Art Gallery, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
October 4th, 2007 – January 2008

Warhol Retrospective
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Australia
December, 2007 – March, 2008

The Art of Andy Warhol for Children
Kalamazoo Institute of Art, Kalamazoo, MI, U.S.A.
January 15, 2008 – April 15, 2008

The Prints of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again)
The Brooks Museum, Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.A
June 13, 2008 – September 7, 2008

Silent Spring: Warhol’s Endangered Species and Vanishing Animals Works (MW)
Kamloops Art Gallery, Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada
June, 2008 – August, 2008


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