From November 6, 2014, to March 29, 2015
As a leader of the American Pop Art movement, Andy Warhol saw his works, together with his image, given wide media coverage. But aside from this coverage, what about Warhol’s own advertising genius, his gift for creating brilliant posters to sell products or promote causes and events? The collector and art historian Paul Maréchal reveals another aspect of the artist’s graphic design work. This time, he has chosen to share with the public his collection of fifty posters and almost a thousand illustrations found in 400 magazine. The exhibition will be accompanied by two catalogues raisonnés, the outcome of intensive research. Paul Maréchal gives us an overview of the show.
How important was graphic design in Warhol’s œuvre?
Immensely important. Warhol started his career as an illustrator, working mainly, but not exclusively, for fashion magazines. He also designed album covers, advertisements for perfumes, Christmas cards, book covers and window displays for Bonwit Teller. During the 1950s, few New York galleries would exhibit the work of young artists. Graphic design offered them greater financial security and freed them from the unpredictability associated with an artist’s life. In the late 1950s, photography began to supersede illustration. Warhol summed up the situation in his last interview: “When I started out, art was going down the drain. The people who used to do magazine illustrations and the covers were being replaced by photographers. And when they started using photographers, I started to show my work with galleries.”
Warhol’s move from illustration, in the 1950s, to painting, in the 1960s, was influenced by two factors: the crisis sparked by the dramatic fall in magazine profits and the new enthusiasm for photojournalism, which, in the eyes of art directors, captured emotion with greater objectivity. As a consequence, illustration was more often found in galleries and museums. Warhol thus had to re-evaluate his own artistic practice. He started to make use of photos to execute his paintings, and we know the rest. Warhol’s series of Campbell’s soup cans is the most obvious illustration of this shift from graphic design to painting.