Warhol Unscreened: Artworks from the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Collection

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Andy Warhol | Campbell’s Soup Cans | 1962 | Synthetic polymer paint on canvas

Warhol Unscreened: Artworks from the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Collection.

Wits Art Museum is excited to host an exhibition of the work of the iconic pop artist, Andy WarholThe exhibition comprises over 80 of the artist’s major screen prints including Flowers, Endangered Species, Campbell’s Soup Cans, Muhammed Ali, Marilyn Monroe, Mickey Mouse and Superman. In addition, Warhol’s celebrated Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers record album, a selection of Interview magazine covers, and the renowned Birmingham Race Riot image will be on exhibition. While WAM’s collections and mission revolve primarily around African art, the museum embraced this exhibition for the unprecedented opportunity to provide access to the work of one of 20th Century Western art’s most important, ground-shifting and anti-establishment artists. The pieces are from the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Collection and the bank is bringing them to WAM at no cost to the museum as part of its Art in Our Communities® programme. The firm is also supporting an extensive education programme that includes bus sponsorship for under-resourced schools; a publication for school learners and support of the museum’s Teen_Connect workshops for neighbourhood teenagers. 

If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface of my paintings and films and me, and there I am. There’s nothing behind it. – Andy Warhol

Warhol collapsed the boundaries between high art and popular culture, and art and business, laying the groundwork for subsequent generations of artists. He was also one of the first to bring silkscreen printing, traditionally used in advertising, into the domain of fine art, making it considerably more accessible. Warhol was a highly enigmatic character who understood the power of the media to confer celebrity status, or deaden human empathy for disturbing images, and fully exploited this power to build his own personal brand. This supported his lofty ambitions for an artistic career that took him from the run-down tenements of post-World War II Pittsburgh to the glossy high society and counter-culture of New York in the 1960s. When the artist presented such disparate subjects as soup cans, 20th-century icons such as Muhammed Ali and Marilyn Monroe, and endangered animal species in a similarly simplified, flattened, colour-drenched and close-up view, he seemed to be conferring equal status on them all. Evoking commodities on the supermarket shelf, he simultaneously participated in, and critiqued, aspects of 20th century western, industrial culture. 

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Andy Warhol, Marilyn Monroe (Marilyn), 1967. From Portfolio of ten screenprints on paper, 3/250. Bank of America Merrill Lynch Collection. © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

Warhol was also a pioneer of the multi-media music performance and his films were ground-breaking in the documentation of the banality of personal activity. All these ideas have great relevance in today’s social, online and traditional media – where gossip magazines and reality TV dominate, and within a culture that understands the world primarily through images which we simultaneously consume, create and disseminate. Richard Gush, country executive for Merrill Lynch South Africa, said: “We recognise the important contribution that organisations like WAM make to society; both in terms of the stimulus they offer the local economy and the cultural enrichment they provide. The arts speak to us in ways that provide pathways to greater cultural understanding and appreciation; and we know that they matter more than ever in this time of global, economic and political change. 

Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art. – Andy Warhol

Here in South Africa, with its rich cultural mix and unique heritage, art exhibitions like this can help individuals to connect across different cultures, to educate and enrich societies, and to help the economy develop. We are therefore delighted to collaborate with WAM to provide access to Warhol’s iconic masterpieces from the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Collection.” The exhibition will be accompanied by an exciting public education programme that includes events on First Thursdays, Talkabouts for adults, and families, and art-making opportunities. A generous grant has also been made available by Business Arts South Africa (BASA), who support and encourage mutually beneficial partnerships between business and the arts. Black Africa, a leading Johannesburg creative agency has developed the visual identity for the exhibition pro-bono.

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Andy Warhol | Endangered Species Portfolio | 1983

Bank of America Merrill Lynch and the Arts

The company has been supporting WAM and Wits University for several years. In 2013, it sponsored the Gerard Sekoto exhibition; and in 2011 through a grant from its global Art Conservation Project, funded the conservation of 10 Ndebele aprons in WAM’s collection. The bank has also supported a conservation project at the Origins Centre at Wits. Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s programme of arts support reflects our belief that the arts matter. They help economies to thrive and individuals to connect with each other across cultures, and they educate and enrich societies. Our commitment to the arts is a key element of our responsible growth. Around the world, we support not-for-profit arts institutions that deliver both the visual and performing arts which provide inspirational educational programmes, open access for all communities, create jobs, and are pathways to greater cultural understanding. Learn more at www.bankofamerica.com/about, and connect with us on Twitter @BofAML.

Exhibition opening | Wednesday 26 July 2017, 18h00 for 18h30 | Address: Wits Art Museum, corner of Bertha (ext. of Jan Smuts Ave) and Jorissen streets, Braamfontein, Johannesburg | Exhibition dates: 27 July to 8 October 2017 | Tel (Mon – Fri): 011 717 1365 | Tel (Sat – Sun): 011 717 1358 | Public Holidays: Closed. Parking is available on the opening night only. Entrance is left off Jorissen Street, just after the Station Street intersection.

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