Pop to Popism – Art Gallery of NSW Embraces Pop Art

Art Gallery of NSW Director, Dr Michael Brand said, when announcing the most comprehensive survey of pop art yet seen in Australia, that the Sydney International Art Series show ‘Pop to Popism, will be “among the most expansive and ambitious exhibitions ever undertaken by the Gallery.

It will start on November 1st, 2014 and be on show over the Xmas holiday summer period until March 2015 at the Art Gallery of NSW, allowing as many Australians as possible an opportunity to view it.

Pop Art was born in the late 1950’s in Britain and the USA. It was all about breaking down barriers between art and life. The British had a focus from afar on the paradoxical image of American popular culture and how it was affecting broader society. Meanwhile the Americans were busy focusing on the experience of living within the culture itself.

During the 1960’s as America became the centre for ‘Pop Art’ proponents sought to mirror the fact their contemporary reality was made up of the objects of everyday life with a ‘kitschy element applied.

Its most famous exponent was the man who ultimately became the world’s first Pop Art Prince, painter Andy Warhol (1928-1987). He believed he understood other people’s needs, as well as his own.

Warhol ‘manufactured’ works of art, becoming in the process, the King of people’s perceptions,

He knew that by raising the mundane things of everyday to heroic proportions they would stimulate the intellect of some people, and fire up the feelings and emotions of others.

A print maker, avant-garde filmmaker record producer and author, Warhol exploited his own ideas and creative talent to make buckets of money.

He enjoyed every moment of his celebrity status, while helping others to enjoy their own ‘15 minutes of fame’, a phrase he coined.

During the first decade of Warhol’s works being on display there was a profound change in the culture attached to the art world.

This show will explore classic pop art and the new wave of artists during the 1970’s and 80’s, who then expanded Warhol’s original ideas in dynamic new directions.

They built on his legacy of what became known as classic pop art as they both celebrated and critiqued consumer culture.

The show will comprise of over 200 works by seventy artists that include American artist Jeff Koons (b.1955-), Cindy Sherman (b.1954-), Richard Prince (b.1949-) and Ed Ruscha (b.1937-), as well as Australian artists such as, Martin Sharp, Brett Whiteley (1939-1992) and Tracey Moffatt (b.1960-)

Martin Sharp (1942-2013) invigorated the Sydney Art scene becoming, in many ways, the ‘father’ of pop art and culture in Australia.

He helped to shape the genre’s development around the world, becoming the acknowledged king of the UK poster scene, always keeping the public informed.

His famous psychedelic posters of Jim Hendrix (left), Bob Dylan and Donovan today rank as icons of the genre.

Sharp as art director along with Richard Neville and Richard Walsh as editors, set up the controversial Oz magazine, giving voice to those a whole generation of artists and writers whose work changed Australia forever.

The magazine was soon at the centre of a censorship war, the first step in a journey that would take the magazine and its youthful creators to ‘swinging’ London and onto the world stage.

Reviewing an exhibition of his work in 2010, critic John McDonald wrote that Sharp believed art was not a commercial activity, “but a way of communicating heartfelt spiritual and political truths.”

Tracey Moffatt’s work is an observation on the history of cinema, art and photography, popular culture and her own childhood memories and fantasies.

Her first solo exhibition was held at the Australian Centre for Photography in Sydney in 1989 and since then she has exhibited extensively in museums all over the world and consolidated an international reputation.

Andy Warhol used imagery, symbolism and knowledge well, constantly challenging those in his circle, as well as those living life outside the square.

Andy Warhol Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom 1985 © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./ARS, NY and DACS, London 2009

Warhol set up a studio, not because he had a passion to paint, a need to create beauty or even to reveal truth.

In the cold hard light of day he saw that being commercial and marketing were in fact art forms within themselves.

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

While he seemingly broke with all traditions and conventions with his methods Andy Warhol did adhere to views inherent in the goals of Modernist artists of the late 19th century.

The artists of the DeStijl movement, a 20th Century art movement centred in the Netherlands, were one of many groups working to achieve “honesty” in their artwork, a lofty ideal.

Their perception and notion was that the art of the past had been dishonest often portraying people who hid behind a mask.

They asserted that much European artwork had been painted to ‘fool’ the viewer’, which if we really think about it, is what Andy Warhol actually delighted in doing.

He just re-invented the concept for a new age of artists to expand upon.

Sydney’s Deputy Premier and Minister for Tourism and Major Evens, Andrew Stoner said ‘In addition to enriching the cultural fabric of the city, the Sydney International Art Series has delivered more than $80 million in visitor spend to the NSW economy with about 100,000 interstate and overseas visitors coming to Sydney specifically to see the exhibitions,’ he said.

The works featured in Pop to Popism have come from 35 lenders around the world with Andy Warhol’s Triple Elvis 1963, Roy Lichtenstein’s In the car 1963 and his first ever comic book painting Look Mickey 1961, as well as David Hockney’s Portrait of an artist 1972, Robert Indiana’s Love cross 1968 and Howard Arkley’s Triple fronted 1987.

Director Dr Michale Brand commented ‘‘The exhibition will present Australian pop artists alongside their international peers from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Europe and extends beyond the period of classic pop art into the eighties, giving audiences an insight into pop’s enduring legacy both here and abroad,’

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2014

1 Nov 2014 – 1 Mar 2015
Art Gallery NSW
Domain Road, Sydney

Roy Lichtenstein In the car 1963, oil and magna on canvas, 172 × 203.5 cm, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, purchased 1980 © Roy Lichtenstein Foundation. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

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