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Andy Warhol at the Ashmolean

In its 2016 Spring Exhibition, the Ashmolean Museum will display a private collection of Pop artist Andy Warhol’s works, including over 100 which have never before been publicly displayed.

The exhibition will span Warhol’s entire career, and will offer a rare insight into the breadth and complexity of the artist’s works. The display will include many of his iconic masterpieces from the 1960s, such as works from the series Brillo Pads, and some of his most famous pieces on social and political themes, notably his Positive/Negative series.

Dr Alexander Sturgis, Director of the Ashmolean Museum, commented, “The substance and significance of Andy Warhol’s art becomes more evident with each passing decade and this exhibition aims to add to what we know about Warhol by highlighting unfamiliar and surprising works from across his career.”

It is hoped that this diverse collection will shed some light on the thinking of an artist who lived a turbulent life in the public eye, from when he was shot and wounded by feminist activist Valerie Solanas in 1968 to the criticism he faced in the ‘70s and ‘80s over the philosophy that, in his own words, “Making money is art.”

Professor Hanneke Grootenboer, Head of the Ruskin School of Art, told Cherwell, “The upcoming exhibition of Andy Warhol is very exciting for students across the University and across Oxford, in particular students in fine art, history of art, and visual culture at Oxford and Oxford Brookes.”

Alongside these works will be some of his more experimental creations, including the Screen Test films, and a surprising array of commissioned portraits, picturing individuals from the West German Chancellor Willy Brandt to Farah Pahlavi, Princess of Iran.

Sir Norman Rosenthal, the Hall Art Foundation Curator of Contemporary Art at the Ashmolean, said, “Warhol feels like the decisive artist of his generation, who peered into the future and saw his world with all its glamour and with all its horror.”

Rosenthal stressed the particular significance of the screen print portrait of Warhol’s fellow artist Joseph Beuys, noting that “They were the two artists who were more than artists – they became symbols of their age.” Another important screen print on display will be ‘Heaven and hell are just one breath away!’, a reflection on death made especially poignant as it was one of Warhol’s very last works.

An Oxford art student told Cherwell, “I think it’s great that such a respected, influential and inspiring artist gets the recognition he deserves at such a prestigious museum.” Others have wondered what place Warhol’s works have in the Ashmolean Museum, with one student remarking, “I don’t see why they have decided to display such a modern artist in a museum mainly concerned with ancient cultures. They call it modern for a reason.”

Nonetheless, lovers of Warhol’s work will doubtless be delighted that some of his most intimate and provocative pieces will be placed: the products of an artist whose output has been described as “the most brilliant mirror of our times”.

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