There’s a historical tendency to present events in a neat, linear fashion. However, contrary to accepted notions, Warhol, who amassed fashionable clients such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Tiffany and Co. as a commercial illustrator in the 1950s, didn’t just wake up at the dawn of a new decade as a central figure in pop art.
Says exhibition curator Nicholas Chambers, “He actually continued producing commercial work in the vein of his 1950s output until at least 1965.” And it is this grey area between historical dates and professions that underpins Adman: Warhol Before Pop. The exhibition, opening at the AGNSW in February, gathers some 300 objects from the Andy Warhol Museum in Warhol’s city of birth, Pittsburgh. Drawings, photographs and artists’ books reveal that along with his immensely successful commercial art career, Warhol was concurrently working and exhibiting as an emerging artist.
“We’re particularly excited to be exhibiting numerous objects that have never before been placed on public display,” says Chambers, this includes sketchbooks and works from Warhol’s debut exhibition, previously only available for scrutiny by researchers at the museum. Of particular note are his works that use his inventive blotted line technique, and early stamped compositions that are precursors to his silk-screen printing.
Interest in Warhol is near inexhaustible. Subsequent generations find new avenues to the artist through his rapacious appetite for all manner of artistic expression – music, publishing, filmmaking, fashion, painting and design. Warhol viewed art in its potential to be inclusive of all forms. “He crafted a practice that moved fluidly between different creative pursuits,” says Chambers.