Te Papa plans Warhol show

SOUPED UP:  Andy Warhol's  star-studded legacy is coming to Wellington.
SOUPED UP: Andy Warhol's star-studded legacy is coming to Wellington.

Pop artist, film-maker, socialite, voyeur - Andy Warhol's life played out like a movie, and now his star-studded legacy is coming to Wellington.

Te Papa will host an exhibition of his work from the start of June to August 2 next year.

Famous for his kaleidoscopic reflections on popular culture, a coterie of celebrity chums and one attempted assassination, Warhol's sway over the public imagination - and wallets - has continued unabated since the eccentric millionaire died in 1987.

Te Papa acting senior art curator Sarah Farrar said the national museum was working with the Andy Warhol Museum in the artist's US home town, Pittsburgh, to develop the exhibition.

"This exhibition continues Te Papa's commitment to bringing significant international art exhibitions to Wellington for New Zealanders to enjoy. Warhol is an iconic figure in popular culture and one of the most important artists of the 20th century."

Details of the exhibition's concept and content have yet to be finalised.

Warhol inspired generations of artists, film-makers and musicians, from David Bowie to Damien Hirst. He was also a contemporary of Auckland artist Barrie Bates, who this week celebrates 50 years of his man-as-brand alter ego Billy Apple.

In the early 1960s both men were blurring the boundaries of art on different sides of the Atlantic - Warhol in New York and Apple in London.

They met when Apple, now 77, moved to New York from London and later exhibited together with fellow pop-art star Jasper Johns in the noted "American Supermarket" installation, which featured Warhol's ubiquitous Campbell's soup cans and Apple's painted bronze watermelon.

Apple's partner Mary Morrison considers the two men "the most radical people in pop art".

"They introduced new thinking in art and the reason they understood each other was because they both understood how advertising worked - they were looking forward and trying to cut away the past," she said.

Apple praised Warhol's professional generosity. Instead of jealously guarding his celebrity friends, he shared them - once insisting Apple escort Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger around a New York exhibition.

"I said ‘Jesus Andy, you're quite capable of showing him around' and he said ‘you could do it much better' - that's what I mean by generosity," Apple said.

Warhol's legacy was the marriage of music, art and life.

"He was very stylish in that respect. His life was like living in a movie set - who knew when the camera was on?"

The exhibition was a "fantastic" coup for the capital and would hopefully move artists away from well-worn Kiwi themes of "landscapes and religion" as used by painters like Toss Woollaston and Colin McCahon.

Warhol exhibition, June 1 to August 2, Te Papa museum, Wellington.

Sunday Star Times