The past twelve months seem to have been my prime time for art exhibits. This spring there was a Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibit at the AGO that made my heart race and my breath get heavy. In Madrid, the Museo Nacional del Prado just happened to have multiple Picasso pieces on display while we were there and I could hardly believe my luck. I just got back from Montreal, and the Museum of Fine Arts was host to a Rodin exhibit, meaning I was able to stand about a foot away from one of the most famous sculptures in history. Finally, Toronto is currently hosting an Andy Warhol exhibit, which I visited last week. And I’m still in awe.
I’ve had a fascination with Andy Warhol for quite a while now. To be honest, I think a lot of the modern world is interested by him and the legacy he left behind. He is known as the man behind the pop art movement, but he was so much more than that. He was a visionary. He was a leader and a creator and a genius. He was an inspiration to many while he was alive, and he continues to inspire thousands of people, myself included, to this day.
I get excited just thinking about seeing Warhol’s work in person. Last summer, while on a family trip to Pittsburgh, I had the opportunity to visit the Warhol Museum, which is six floors of glory. Six floors of Andy’s life and art and multiple other things that he associated himself with. It was overwhelming in the best way possible. I spent most of the visit in awe, and when it came to an end all I wanted was to handcuff myself to a door and hope that that would allow me to stay in there forever. I promise I didn’t actually go through with that plan, but I would have done it in a heartbeat.
Toronto’s exhibit, called Warhol Revisited, is not nearly as big as the museum, but it still packs a lot of punch. One thing I will say – the advertisements claim that the collection includes a hundred and twenty pieces, but they’re all in rotation. So they’re not all there at once. I was a little annoyed at that, but I wasn’t going to complain about seeing more Warhol artwork. On the bright side, the exhibit is pretty cheap. It’s five dollars for students with a valid ID, and ten for adults, so you can easily go back more than once to see all the different pieces as they come in.
I felt at home as soon as I walked into the gallery space. It’s laid out incredibly, with striped accent walls, tiny secluded alcoves, and silver couches – Andy’s famous New York studio space, The Factory, was at one point completely decked out in the metallic hue, so that explains that. A couple walls have also been covered by wallpaper that’s printed with some of the most famous photos of Warhol himself, and I spent a lot of my visit wishing I could buy rolls of it to cloak my room in. I’m sure my mum would have been extremely happy with that.
Aside from the vibe of the space, the pieces included in the exhibit are genuinely incredible. His portraits of Marilyn Monroe are there. The Flowers are there. Pieces from his exploration of Cowboys and Indians are there. The Campbell’s Soup Cans are there, and I did a bit of a squeal and a happy dance at those. The collection even includes one of the Shadows, which is a series of darker paintings that Warhol completed between nineteen-seventy-eight and seventy-nine. That alone was enough to make the exhibit worthwhile.
I walked through the entire gallery at least twice. I spent time on each piece trying to grasp Andy’s concepts. I wanted to see each layer and detail and colour. I sat on the silver couches, trying desperately to transport myself back to seventies New York so that I could make an attempt to be part of Warhol’s inner circle. (It didn’t work by the way. I’m writing this post in twenty-fifteen in Stouffville, Ontario.) After looking at all the art, I sat and watched the documentary they were playing about Andy’s life. I felt my admiration for the man grow to approximately twice it’s original size. I didn’t want to leave, but I forced myself to walk out the door and into the real world. But I felt refreshed and inspired and ready to take on the world just as Andy had.
Warhol was the kind of person who supported the underdogs. He represented the unrepresented. He liked things on the fringes and as soon as he touched them they became cool and interesting. He did things his own way. The time during which he existed was incredibly destructive, but at the same time it is one of the most creative eras I can think of. Andy supported artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat and musicians like The Velvet Underground and filmmakers and models and photographers. They collaborated and supported each other and they all spent so much time at The Factory just making art and making history. I would kill to have been part of that.
The conclusion that I’ve come to is that art has some sort of power over me, especially when it’s been created by masterminds like Andy Warhol or Basquiat or Monet or Frida Kahlo. I feel so affected every time I’m able to see what somebody created using their hands and the talent and imagination they were born with. I almost always leave an art gallery feeling about a thousand times more inspired than when I stepped into it. Seeing the work of so many incredible artists reminds me why I live to create and why I constantly need to paint and draw and write and just use my hands to make something out of nothing. And it’s the best feeling in the world. One of my main goals in life is to visit as many art museums as possible, because I want to constantly feel inspired and refreshed and full of positivity. The Warhol exhibit made me feel all of those things, and that excites me beyond belief. I guarantee that I’ll be visiting again.