Tagged: andy warhol

Why Andy Warhol’s ‘Empire’ looks janky.


A still from Andy Warhol’s Empire. (Image courtesy of MoMA. © 2011 Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.)

Last month, when Liz Arnold (the damsel behind @WNYCculture) and I spent the day live Tweeting all eight hours of Andy Warhol’s static shot of the Empire State Building at the Museum of Modern Art, a number of folks brought up the issue of the film’s quality. Though originally shot on 16mm film, Empire was being shown as a digital transfer (as was the rest of the Andy Warhol: Motion Pictures exhibit — except for a single screen test, featuring Ethel Scull). Now, I’m no film geek (I know more about rainforest ecosystems than I do about film), but the picture did look pretty darn blurry in a non-16mm kind of way, and if you sat in the front rows, you could literally see the pixels.

Which is why I read Amy Taubin’s review of the exhibit in the March issue of Artforum with great interest. (Yes, I was reading Artforum. It was a moment of weakness.) In it, she addresses the poor quality of the transfers and asks the very good question, “What, in fact, is being shown?” After poking around, this is what she came up with:

MoMA then referred me to the source of those transfers, the Warhol Museum, and I discovered that the latter had relied on one-inch and Betacam SP tape ‘masters’ made from the 16mm films. These crude, outdated analog video formats were used as the intermediates for the digital files…

In other words, what we were gazing on at MoMA wasn’t just a copy — but a copy of a copy. (Crazy!) Or as Taubin puts it: “garbage in, garbage out.” For the record: I verified this directly with a spokesperson from the Warhol Museum — who also told me that the 16mm-to-Beta transfer took place back in the ’90s. In other words, for eight hours, we stared at a copy of an old copy.

So, there you go, film nerds: question answered. And if you happen to be within reaching distance of the March Artforum, you’ll find Taubin’s worthwhile (if nuclear) review on p. 260.

Andy Warhol: Motion Pictures is up at the Museum of Modern Art through Monday.

Empire Tweets Back.

This Friday, I’m gonna spend the entire day watching Andy Warhol’s marathon eight-hour film Empire and Tweeting about it — in the company of WNYC, Hyperallergic, ARTnews Magazine and architecture and literary experts Mark Lamster and Bryan Waterman. Please join in!

Find all the deets here.

Photos: Andy Warhol, The Last Decade, at the Brooklyn Museum.

I spent a better part of Saturday afternoon wandering around Andy Warhol: The Last Decade at the Brooklyn Museum. I’ve long felt ambivalent about Warhol as an artist. I love the ways in which he innovated the use of commercial imagery, but get worn out by the relentless rich-people portraits cranked out factory-style. I like the way he could play the media, but the hijinks can grow tiresome. Some pieces are clever, others too self-aware. But the gathering of silkscreens and paintings at the Brooklyn Museum, all produced during the last ten years of the artist’s life, contained a number of works that genuinely moved me — from the whoa-nelly-this-shit-is massive Last Supper (the middle shot above) to the maligned collaborations with Jean-Michel Basquiat (there’s a hopefulness and a darkness to Sin More that I find really compelling). I was totally absorbed — primarily by the works on the fifth floor portion of the exhibit.

But above all, I learned one important lesson: It might occasionally behoove me to clean the lens on my camera.

Continue reading

The Digest. 05.26.10.


Andy Warhol’s self-portrait silkscreen on wallpaper. Part of an installation for the upcoming exhibit, Andy Warhol: The Last Decade, at the Brooklyn Museum, opening in three weeks. (Image courtesy of Marcus Romero and the Brooklyn Museum.)

Calendar. 01.06.08.


Bananas, 1978, by Andy Warhol. (Image courtesy of Paul Kasmin Gallery.)

The Andy Warhol Banana Split Bowl. Or why I love art merch.


I’ll have mine with warm butterscotch and extra maraschino cherries, please. (Photo by C-M.)

I love art merch. Seriously, I can’t get enough of it. At any museum, in addition to exploring the art, I always allot enough time to make a  thorough inspection of the gift store. It’s all part of the bigger picture, really. If art in our culture is often reduced to the vacuous acquisition of shining objects, then the gift shops embody this sentiment on a grand, populist scale. And like Black Friday at Macy’s, it’s often a free-for-all.

So, just in time for the holiday shopping season, I’ve outlined the three reasons why art merch deserves our utmost veneration:

  1. Gift store inventory reveals more about a museum than any art hung in the galleries. A museum shop full of nothing but incomprehensible exhibit catalogues tells me, “We’re a serious, academic place, where all water cooler conversation takes place in German.” (Case in point: the Mies Van der Rohe pavilion in Barcelona.) But, if I see erasers, scarves, jewelry, coffee mugs and key chains, I know that this is an institution with an ample marketing department that is determined to appeal to a very wide audience — and vacuum their wallets in the process. (Hello, Metropolitan Museum of Art.) 
  2. Art merch can be sublimely absurd. Not just the physical objects — such as this Andy Warhol banana split bowl ($14.95 at the Whitney) — but the process that went into creating them. At some point, a bunch of people got together, in a conference room, and had a meeting about this. They asked themselves, “What can we do with this priceless screen print of a banana?” And they decided that it wouldn’t work as cuff links or a stationery set, but it’d be just perfect as a receptacle for ice cream and nuts. Then, someone said, “We can include a matching spoon.” And everyone around the table replied, “Ooooh, of course, the matching spoon!” All so a tourist on winter break in New York could go, “Check it out, Marge… It’s a Warhol banana split holder with a matching spoon…” It’s like a giant conceptual art piece. Created by some licensing company in Beijing.
  3. The merch is often more fascinating than the art itself. I’m not talking about Impressionist notepads and Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired key chains. Those are done. I’m talking about stuff that is tasteless with a high degree of planning and premeditation: shorts with David‘s dong, Guernica coffee mugs and Frida Kahlo socks. It takes imagination to say, “Hey, let’s get Schnabel to put one of his doodles on a beach towel!” Or, “What if Barry McGee did sunglasses?” Or, better yet, “Let’s put Boticelli’s Venus on a couch.” Not to mention that this stuff is all highly utilitarian. I can sit on it, wear it, and use it to dry my damp derriere on the beach. And that, my friends, is an art. Even if it never takes place in a gallery.