Paris report by Darius KADIVAR
Andy Warhol Exhibit at Paris' Grand Palais highlights Pahlavi Era Portraits amidst 20th Century Icons who inspired the Pop Art Maestro (*)
©Andy Warhol & Photocomposition©DK
"Making money is art, and working is art and good business is the best art."
- Andy Warhol's blunt observation about his Art
No other artist is as much identified with Pop Art as Andy Warhol. The media called him the Prince of Pop. Warhol made his way from a Pittsburgh working class family to an American legend. The exhibition "Le grand Monde d'Andy Warhol", at the Grand Palais in Paris, presents a selection of nearly 150 works among the impressive "portraits gallery" made by Andy Warhol from the 60's to his death. The exhibition, which opened last month on March 18th, has been drawing record crowds of experts, neophytes or simple admirors of the Pope of Pop Art who can see first hand Portraits from Marilyn Monroe and Chairman Mao to Elvis Presely and the Shah of Iran. The array of screen-prints, Polaroids and film footage, which has never been shown together before, will not travel to any other city in the world. Paris hopes the show will add to the city's already record-breaking museum visitor figures this year, which have sparked talk of a "new French renaissance" in the exhibition world.
Warhol's Portrait of Princess Ashraf Pahlavi ( The Shah of Iran's twin Sister)
made the cover of French Art Magazine's March Issue N°40, 2009
Born in 1928 in Pittsburgh as the son of Slovak immigrants. His original name was Andrew Warhola. His father was as a construction worker and died in an accident when Andy was 13 years old. Andy showed an early talent in drawing and painting. After high school he studied commercial art at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh. Warhol graduated in 1949 and went to New York where he worked as an illustrator for magazines like Vogue and Harpar's Bazaar and for commercial advertising. He soon became one of New York's most sought of and successful commercial illustrators.
In 1952 Andy Warhol had his first one-man show exhibition at the Hugo Gallery in New York. In 1956 he had an important group exhibition at the renowned Museum of Modern Art.
In the sixties Warhol started painting daily objects of mass production like Campbell Soup cans and Coke bottles. Soon he became a famous figure in the New York art scene. From 1962 on he started making silkscreen prints of famous personalities like Marilyn Monroe or Elizabeth Taylor. The quintessence of Andy Warhol art was to remove the difference between fine arts and the commercial arts used for magazine illustrations, comic books, record albums or advertising campaigns.
Empress Farah of Iran and Former First Lady of France, Bernadette Chirac
Honored the Exhibition with her Presence ©PDV & ©Farah Pahlavi
The pop artist not only depicted mass products but he also wanted to mass produce his own works of pop art. Consequently he founded The Factory in 1962. It was an art studio where he employed in a rather chaotic way "art workers" to mass produce mainly prints and posters but also other items like shoes designed by the artist. The first location of the Factory was in 231 E. 47th Street, 5th Floor (between 1st & 2nd Ave).
Warhol's favorite printmaking technique was silkscreen. It came closest to his idea of proliferation of art. Apart from being an Art Producing Machine, the Factory served as a filmmaking studio. Warhol made over 300 experimental underground films - most rather bizarre and some rather pornographic. His first one was called Sleep and showed nothing else but a man sleeping over six hours.
Film Critic and Iranian Diplomat Fereidoune Hoveyda befriended
Warhol in the 1970's and was an enthusiast Pop Art
Amateur Painter himself (**) ©Fereidoune Hoveyda
In July of 1968 the pop artist was shot two to three times into his chest by a woman named Valerie Solanis. Andy was seriously wounded and only narrowly escaped death. Valerie Solanis had worked occasionally for the artist in the Factory. Solanis had founded a group named SCUM (Society for Cutting Up Men) and she was its sole member. When Valerie Solanis was arrested the day after, her words were "He had too much control over my life". Warhol never recovered completely from his wounds and had to wear a bandage around his waist for the rest of his life.
Pahlavi Era Portraits by Andy Warhol are currently exhibited at the Grand Palais, Similar authentic reproductions can be found at the Tehran Museum of Modern Arts
After this assassination attempt the pop artist made a radical turn in his process of producing art. The philosopher of art mass production now spent most of his time making individual portraits of the rich and affluent of his time like Mick Jagger, Michael Jackson or Brigitte Bardot. Warhol's activities became more and more entrepreneurial. He started the magazine Interview and even a night-club. In 1974 the Factory was moved to 860 Broadway. In 1975 Warhol published THE philosophy of Andy Warhol. In this book he describes what art is:
"Making money is art, and working is art and good business is the best art."
Warhol had an ambiguous
sexuality which also played a part in his creations. Some close associates and
friends even assimilated to being asexual with a slightly bizarre personality.
True or false, by the fifties he dyed his hair straw-blond. Later he replaced
his real hair by blond and silver-grey wigs.
In the 1960s, 70s and 80s, Warhol produced more than 1,000 portraits, with subjects ranging from Mick Jagger to Princess Caroline of Monaco, Nelson Rockefeller to Queen Elisabeth or Shahbanou Farah of Iran and members of Iran's Royal Family and dignitaries. Warhol's society portraits based on Polaroid snapshots taken during the late '70s were moneymaking machines for the Factory, selling at $25,000 a piece or $40,000 for two. Though Warhol's extraordinary market has recently entered another stratosphere, these debauched, headshot close-ups from the '70s are about as interesting as a Warhol of, say, depraved contemporary subjects like Michael Jackson or O.J. Simpson. The sky-high estimates simply don't compute. Comparisons are elusive in past auction results, thus Warhol's Princess Ashraf Pahlavi dubbed "Portraits of an Iranian Princess" (in two parts) from 1980 sold for £100,150/$152,667 in June 2002. But then again, a well known Iranian American Arts Dealer Tony Shafrazi was hawking a Warhol triptych of the Shah, Empress, and Princess sister Ashraf Pahlavi at Basel a few years ago for the aristocratic asking price of $8 million. So Go figure...
At one stage, Warhol was making $1m a year from such portraits. He painted Lady Diana, commissioned by a bar owner in Hong Kong. He painted Brigitte Bardot for the German millionaire toyboy Gunther Sachs, whose marriage to the actor lasted only two months. His fee was always the same - the portraits were usually made up of a set; the first cost $25,000, the second $15,000.
When in 1972 a dealer encouraged Warhol to paint a world-famous figure such as Albert Einstein, Warhol shocked the art scene by instead producing four giant portraits and wallpaper of the Chinese leader Mao Zedong, based on a photo on the cover of the Little Red Book. It was a reworking of a propaganda image, on which Warhol put lipstick to raise questions about Mao's sexuality.
The pop artist loved cats, and images of them can be found on quite a few of his art works. One of Andy's friends described him as a true workaholic. Warhol was obsessed by the ambition to become famous and wealthy. And he knew he could achieve the American dream only by hard work.
In his later years, Warhol moved beyond the film stars and political icons and turned to religious imagery, including works such as 112 screen-prints of Christ and a portrait of an electric chair - seen by some as a modern crucifix.
In his last years Warhol promoted other artists like Keith Haring or Robert Mapplethorpe.
Andy Warhol died February 22, 1987 from complications after a gall bladder operation. More than 2000 people attended the memorial mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral. A Man of Many Paradoxes, The pop art icon Warhol was also a religious man - a little known fact. The Brilliant Artist may be dead but his visual legacy and enduring influence lives on ...
VIVE LA PEINTURE !
(*) Open Everyday except Tuesday starting March 18th to 13th of July, 2009 : 10 A.M. to 22 P.M. ( 20 P.M. on thursdays) Ticket Price : 11 euros, Discount : 8 euros.
Official Website of The Grand Palais
Official Website of Andy Warhol Exhibit
(**) Fereydoun Hoveyda (1924-2006): A Class Apart By Darius KADIVAR
Official Websites of Andy Warhol's Museum and Foundation:
A Shah for Sale:London Bonhams Auction of Nasseredin Shah Portrait sells £260,000 by Darius KADIVAR
Tehran's Museum of Contemporary Art By Robert Tait ( The Guardian)
Empress of the Arts
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Farah Pahlavi at Maurice Béjart 80th Birthday Party By Darius KADIVAR
Fereydoun Hoveyda (1924-2006): A Class Apart By Darius KADIVAR
Rainbow High: Farah Pahlavi at Paris Dior 60th Anniversary Gala by Darius KADIVAR
Persian History Inspires French Comic Book Masters by Darius KADIVAR
Le Charme Persan by Darius KADIVAR
An Axis Of Joy: Monika Jalili & Noorsaaz Band Triumph in Paris by Darius KADIVAR
Musical Ode To Cyrus The Great In Paris by Darius KADIVAR
MAZEH : A Taste of Persia in the Heart of Paris by Darius KADIVAR
The Persian Girl Of Saint-Germain
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A Night at the Comédie Française by Darius KADIVAR
Anicée (ALVINA) Shahmanesh: France's Sex Icon of the 1970's By Darius KADIVAR
About the Author: Darius KADIVAR is a Freelance Journalist, Film Historian, and Media Consultant. He is also contributes to OCPC Magazine in LA/US and to the London Based IC Publications The Middle East Magazine and Persian Heritage Magazine.
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