Warhol leads pop art assault on Stockholm

Andy Warhol has come back to Stockholm, where he first exhibited in 1964, as part of a show that puts pop art into its social and technological context at Moderna Museet. But it's not all Mad Men, there are mad women too.

Warhol leads pop art assault on Stockholm

He hasn’t come back alone. Claes Oldenburg, Verner Panton, Walter Pichler, Robert Rauschenberg and Ed Ruscha are among the 90 plus artist and designers in the retrospective. It details in length the interplay between new materials in the post-WWII era and how it affected consumption and art. Warhol and co were hard to ignore at the time, and indelible today.

“We are in a post-Warholian paradigm in art production,” Moderna director Daniel Birnbaum told The Local.

“People can pretend we haven’t passed through that period but I think that is either naive or a little bit reactionary.”

One part of the exhibition, which is divided into a slightly overwhelming 22 themes, is dedicated to women in pop art. Both the ridiculous – a woman’s body contorted into the base of an arm chair, and the ridiculous in another way – Warhol’s Brillo washing powder boxes stacked in a corner like washed-up treasure.

“Mass culture had a very strong influence on culture, with images of the happy housewife, and the sexualized female body,” co-curator Matilda Olof-Ors told The Local

She walked over to a painting on a side wall. It depicted a beaming woman throwing away trash, with the slogan ‘nine out of ten’… a parody of the epoch’s advertising tactics – as in ‘nine of ten housewives choose this or that detergent’.

“Lee Lozano takes the language of commercials – the ‘nine out of ten’ line which was used over and over again,” says Olof-Ors, before pointing at the painting’s punchline at the bottom.

“‘Eat cunt for mental health’… It’s a brilliant comment which I couldn’t resist including.”

IN PICTURES: See Lee Lozano’s art and more images from the Pop Konst Design (Pop Art Design) exhibition at Stockholm’s Moderna Museet

Pop art has suffered critique that it’s superficial. Moderna Museet director Daniel Birnbaum disagrees, referencing the contorted woman’s body serving as a chair.

“It’s clearly something ridiculous, it commodifies a woman into a piece of furniture,” he told The Local.

Birnbaum underlined that even Warhol tried to shirk away from claims he did anything more than reflect the times.

“He loved life, he loved modernity and it would be meaningless for him to say ‘I’m against it’,” he said.

“But you don’t paint the electric chair or traffic accidents in a celebratory mood, you don’t, and Andy Warhol is a more complex person than that.”

“You can’t say pop art is only descriptive or neutral. It also makes clear ideas in the viewers’ own mind without being over critical in an over pedagogical way.”

The juxtaposition in one of the art pieces on show appeals to co-curator Matilda Olof-Ors. It’s her favourite in the exhibition, a Marlboro Man cowboy leaning leisurely against the museum wall. Conceived by Jann Haworth (who will speak about her work and Pop Art in English at Moderna on September 20th), he’s made of foam.

“He’s a macho guy and he’s soft,” Olof-Ors said.

Ann Törnkvist

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Mathias Schwartz-Clauss and Matilda Olof-Ors co-curated the exhibition which is a cooperation with the Vitra Design Museum and the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art.

Pop Konst Design runs from June 29th to September 22nd 2013.

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Picasso and Duchamp face-off in Stockholm art exhhibit

Modern art giants Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp have been pitted directly against one another for the first time in a new exhibit which opened this week at the Stockholm's Moderna Museet, the AFP's Camille Bas-Wohlert explains.

Picasso and Duchamp face-off in Stockholm art exhhibit

Stockholm’s Museum of Modern Art is pitting Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp, two of the 20th century’s modernist greats, against each other in a new exhibition opposing their contrasting approaches

to art.

“Picasso/Duchamp: He was wrong” opened Saturday, the title based on Picasso’s reputed laconic remark on learning of Duchamp’s death in 1968.

The exhibition is a “theatrical” posthumous meeting of the two greats, museum curator Daniel Birnbaum said of the pair who each had a famous dislike for the other’s works and who never met.

The Moderna Museet has a fine collection of works by the two influential artists often described as rivals and incompatible, with Picasso the prolific painter and Duchamp the conceptual creator who challenged painting as an artform.

But the museum has never before organised a showing of their oeuvres side by side.

“There is really a difference between Duchamp’s detachment and Picasso’s subjectivity. When these two things come together, it doesn’t go very well,” exhibition curator Ronald Jones told AFP.

“Picasso is the great painter, and the other is the one who questioned the very nature of an artwork,” Birnbaum added.

The first room of the exhibition is a large hall adorned with giant portraits of the two artists facing each other: Picasso with a bull mask covering his head in an Edward Quinn photograph, and Duchamp with his face covered in shaving cream and tufts of hair protruding like horns, shot by Man


Also in the room, Picasso’s 1912 collage “Bottle, Glass and Violin” faces off against Duchamp’s “Bicycle Wheel” from 1913.

It’s the only room where their work is shown together and it is meant to link their universes, which visitors then view separately, choosing to go left to see the works of Duchamp and to the right for Picasso.

Picasso churned out paintings over a career spanning seven decades, while the more humble Duchamp prided himself on a small body of work, delivering just 13 “readymades” over four decades.

The two giants began their careers around the same time, had the same patrons, and sometimes the same supporters and admirers. What divided them was their way of getting their message across, according to Jones.

“Marcel wouldn’t have cared” about his works being exhibited alongside Picasso’s, but “Picasso probably wouldn’t have liked it so much,” mused Jones.

“At the end of his life, (Picasso) was quite concerned by the allegiance artists were showing to Duchamp. He despised Duchamp,” he added.

The exhibition features Picasso’s 1941 masterpiece “Woman with Blue Collar” and more than a hundred of his other works, most of them belonging to the museum’s own collection but some on loan, his shocks of colour and etchings hung in a number of small and intimate, inviting rooms.

Meanwhile two large, airy rooms are reserved for Duchamp’s 20 conceptual installations, with “Large Glass” and “Fountain” as centrepieces, perhaps more difficult for the visitor to grasp.

Anna Brodow Inzaina, art critic for one of Sweden’s leading newspapers, Svenska Dagbladet, said Picasso wins the contest hands-down but criticised the museum’s need to exaggerate the rivalry that existed between the two.

“Exhibiting Picasso and Duchamp against each other is unnecessarily polarising and exclusionary,” she wrote, questioning the exhibition’s “he was wrong” point of departure.

“Why does a rivalry between two artistic giants have to be blown up into an ultimatum? Were there really only two ways to go? Does the exhibition want to push us into answering the question?,” she asked.

After Picasso, the museum plans to pit other artists against Duchamp along the same model.

“Picasso/Duchamp: He was wrong” runs until March 3, 2013.

AFP/The Local

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