Stockholm. 1968. Socialist and Communist winds are blowing in Sweden as well as the world. Students occupy their student union house. The Stockholm Royal Opera was almost occupied at the same time. Martin Luther King was murdered, the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia. Primarily, students and academics are the ones revolting. In the middle of this left wing movement, Moderna Museet in Stockholm conducts the world’s first retrospective museum exhibition ever with American artist Andy Warhol. Andy Warhol, who even today is seen as superficial, commercial and as the very definition of American wear-and-tear-art. Warhol could easily be the very antithesis of what is happening in political Sweden at this time. So how was the exhibition received? This is a question that Moderna Museet wanted to investigate. How was Warhol received? How did the intellectuals of the time look at his art, back then?
Moderna Museet Malmö shows Andy Warhol’s art in Malmö for the first time. Aside from the fact that Warhol is one of the world’s most famous artists, the 1968 context framing the exhibition adds several dimensions to the works shown.
Among his most iconic works, of course, are his depictions of Marilyn Monroe. Here Marilyn hangs in front of a photo of… Of the same paintings at Moderna in Stockholm 1968.
Warhol had silver foiled walls at The Factory, to increase the light and make it possible to film there. Moderna has taken hold of this and foiled a wall behind another Marilyn painting with the effect that you can reflect yourself when you stand in front of, and observe, Warhol’s work. Warhol was seen – and is seen to this day – as superficial. Andy Warhol, however, was deeply religious and with his art he wanted to put focus on just the superficiality of the consumption society – a society where commerce took over the role of religion. In commercialism, however, everything is perishable and changeable, unlike religion where the point is that things should be kept constant. Being shown in our egocentric world 2019, viewing Warhol’s Marilyn and seeing yourself – thereby being able to include yourself in Warhol’s art, is just really fun. A smart framing of what Warhol wanted to say to people at the time – with a twinkle to our world of selfies where we all should have our “15 minutes of fame”. Fun!
Shown are also the Brillo boxes that nowadays are sold at insane million dollar rates at auction houses but which Warhol actually used mostly as props in his exhibitions, to create an overall feel in the room. These boxes hardly sold at all in the 60’s. But – here is a connection to Malmö. In Malmö at the time, Brillo boxes were actually printed and produced in Warhol’s name. At that time, it was said that it took place with Warhol’s approval but that has later proved not to be entirely true. The bizarre price development of these copies of Warhol’s Brillo boxes, clearly not produced by Warhol but still sold for huge amounts, is nicely described and adds additional dimension to Warhol’s message.
In a quote that is included in the exhibition, Andy Warhol says “I like money on the wall. Say you were going to buy a $200,000 painting. I think you should take that money, tie it up, and hang it on the wall. Then when someone visited you the first thing they would see is the money on the wall. ”- which is exactly what you do with the purchase of Brillo boxes, boxes Andy Warhol did not even produce.
There are also works such as the Electric Chair, also hung against the background of the exhibition in Stockholm in 1968, next to the place where the painting was hanging in the original exhibition.
Moderna Museet Malmö also show works that have never been exhibited before. Warhol was educated in illustration and illustrated adverts. Among his first assignments were Columbia Records who commissioned two album covers. These were followed by a large amount of covers for artists such as Aretha Franklin, David Bowie, Diana Ross, Loredana Berté and of course his own Velvet Underground. In fact, all the covers he himself produced and covers including his artworks are shown here. This collection has been made possible through the cooperation of Mr Richard Forrest.
Moderna Museet Malmö is showing a fun, stimulating exhibition that raises interesting questions, gives interesting perspectives and teaches us about an artistry that is often misunderstood. Go see!
Moderna Museet Malmö is open every day of the week from 11 am except Mondays when it is closed. Every Saturday at 3 pm, they give a public guided tour of the exhibitions.
How to get there
The museum is located in central Malmö, a short walk from Malmö C and Gustav Adolfs Torg.
Regional or long-distance train to Malmö C
Take a city bus to Gustav Adolfs Torg, Studentgatan, Caroli or Paulibron from where you take a short walk.