This exhibition at The Mac, Belfast, is the first significant Andy Warhol exhibition to be presented in Northern Ireland and brings together pieces drawn from the Artist Rooms collection, which was acquired by the Tate and the National Gallery of Scotland in 2008. The works are thematically grouped into three sections, the first of which focuses loosely on the subjects of war, religion and death. Displayed within this section are large-scale canvases in monochromatic tones, which offer a contrast to the artist’s quintessential colourful aesthetic. In the second exhibition space, an expansive array of framed posters jostle for attention. With little breathing room in terms of hanging, the display forms a concentrated exposition of how Warhol dissolved the borders dividing commercialism and fine art.
The artist’s lifelong obsession with repetition appears in his seldom displayed stitched photographs, emphasising the extent to which seriality was one of his abiding concerns. Four framed screenprints depicting personalities such as Mick Jagger and Jackie Kennedy reveal Warhol’s unique method of layering colour. Unfortunately these works are slightly overwhelmed by the iconic Cow Wallpaper (1971) which stretches from floor to ceiling creating an intense backdrop. Also featured is a dynamic reconstruction of the artist’s helium-filled silver floatations, which predominantly hover suspended in mid-air, save one rogue balloon that repeatedly drifts to the floor only to be propelled back into the air by an electric fan.
The artist’s persona was a fundamental element of the Warhol brand, and a documentary screening in the basement offers a glimpse of the enigmatic man and factory life through the eyes of his eccentric entourage. Although the exhibition allowed for an accessible and engaging introduction to Warhol’s practice, it somewhat lacked the breadth of work to illustrate all of the chosen themes fully.
Andy Warhol, The Mac, Belfast, 8 February – 28 April.
1. Brian Morrison Photography.