Photos: ‘Warhol’s Jews’ at the Jewish Museum, NYC.

Warhol's Jews
Warhol’s portraits of Gertrude Stein and Franz Kafka. (Photo by C-M.)

Back in 1980, the Jewish Museum in New York put on a show of Andy Warhol’s 10 Portraits of Jews of the 20th Century. The exhibit, to put it mildly, was not well received. People publicly wondered what could possibly inspire an artist to make a series of portraits devoted to a single ethnic group. (Update: An oversight on my part: Warhol was commissioned to do this project. Though people still wondered what inspired him to take it on. See the comments section below for more info.) Hilton Kramer, in the New York Times, offered this terrifically melodramatic evaluation:

To the many afflictions suffered by the Jewish people in the course of their long history, the new Andy Warhol show at the Jewish Museum cannot be said to make a significant addition. True, the show is vulgar. It reeks of commercialism, and its contribution to art is nil. The way it exploits its Jewish subjects without showing the slightest grasp of their significance is offensive – or would be, anyway, if the artist had not already treated so many non-Jewish subjects in the same tawdry manner. No, the Jews will survive this caper unscathed. So, very likely, will everyone else. But what it may do to the reputation of the Jewish Museum, is, as they say, something else.

Whoa. Who says art critics aren’t occasionally a histrionic bunch?

Twenty-eight years later, the museum has once again gathered the paintings under one roof in Warhol’s Jews: Ten Portraits Reconsidered, opening Saturday. The exhibit includes all ten original silkscreen canvases (definitely worth checking out), as well as images of the photographs that Warhol worked from, tracings and original prints. There’s even a clip of Kramer’s review.

On the third floor, there is also an adjacent exhibition Art, Image, and Warhol Connections, that shows pieces by a number of Jewish artists that display Warholian influences. (Check out Devorah Sperber‘s piece, After Warhol, a reproduction of a Campbell’s soup can made out of spools of thread.) Whatever you do, don’t miss the five-minute video of Warhol at the show’s original premiere in Miami, which includes interviews with Miami Beach grandmas wondering who the heck this Andy Warback is. Also included: spectacular footage of Warhol’s likeness carved in chocolate. Too bad the museum didn’t reproduce that piece for this show. It would have had great gift shop potential.

Money shots after the jump.

Warhol's Jews
George Gershwin. (Because I borrowed this photo from the museum’s PR department, I have to include the adjacent legalese, or armies of Warhol Foundation lawyers might descend on my apartment and peck me into a state of unconsciousness: Private collection. © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./Artists Rights Society, New York/Courtesy Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York.)

Warhol's Jews
Sarah Bernhardt. (Private collection. © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./Artists Rights Society, New York/Courtesy Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York.)

Warhol's Jews
The Marx Bros. (Photo by C-M.)

Warhol's Jews
Louis Brandeis. (Private collection. © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./Artists Rights Society, New York/Courtesy Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York.)

Warhol's Jews
George Gershwin and Albert Einstein. (Photo by C-M.)

After Warhol by Devorah Sperber
Devorah Sperber’s After Warhol (2008), made with spools of thread and seen through an acrylic viewing sphere. (Image courtesy of the artist.)

Also: While you’re at the museum, don’t miss this video piece by Ori Gersht. It’s frackin’ gorgeous.

Posted by C-Monster.

5 comments

  1. Deschanel

    If I remember correctly, Warhol was approached to do this series, it was a specifically commissioned project. In his “business art” approach, collectors and investors would underwrite projects and editions this way. Asking why Warhol chose this subject, a. he was commissioned to, and b. why not?

  2. Pingback: C-MONSTER.net » Blog Archive » The Digest. 08.20.08.
  3. Andy Warhol Fan - Tom Gurney

    Although not Jewish myself, i think it is great, and important that this exhibition exists and encourages all art lovers to embrace works of different religions or countries.
    Warhol himself is an incredible artist who remains popular across the board. Warhol Paintings remain relevant and modern.

  4. Amy Cohen Banker

    I had meeting today with a Polish curator who asked me to contribute
    to a show at the Polish consulate and another one at the Hermitage
    Museum. When I suggested my Andy Warhol painting he asked “isn’t
    Andy Jewish, not really Polish?” or at least that is what I thought
    he might have said so half way in jest I said, “everyone has a bit
    of Jewish in them, even Jane Seymour” but I googled this page
    to check it out. I like his works, admired his influences and certainly think he deserved to exhibit and get paid for his show
    at The Jewish Museum. It was very “progressive” and modern and smart
    and it was just as important as when he did Queen Elizabeth. He might
    be considered tacky by some but obviously his legacy lives on.