Pop goes the art

Published May 1, 2010

RABBIT, 1986, by Jeff Koons

If you’re planning a visit to our nation’s capital this summer, the National Gallery of Canada (NGC) has simply got to be on your to-do list. The spectacular new exhibition Pop Life: Art in a Material World features hundreds of exciting works from the superstars of modern art, including Andy Warhol, Richard Prince, Keith Haring, Jeff Koons and Pruitt-Early.

Organized in conjunction with the Tate Modern in London, the exhibition was six years in the making. “This art blurred and twisted the boundaries between art, culture and the marketplace,” said Jonathan Shaughnessy at a special 2010 exhibition program preview in Toronto. Shaughnessy is assistant curator of contemporary art at NGC and co-ordinating curator of Pop Life.

Featuring more than 250 paintings, drawing, prints, sculptures, videos, installations and “other ephemera produced over the past three decades,” the exhibition looks at a culture of media-savvy artists who embraced celebrity and commerce as the foundation of their work.

The exhibition begins with the work of American pop art legend Andy Warhol (1928-1987), who contended that “good business is the best art.” By carefully crafting his artistic persona as a partygoer, model, television personality, paparazzo and publisher, Warhol harnessed the power of celebrity (some would say notoriety) to create “art” with the sole purpose of making money.

Other featured artists include Jeff Koons, whose stainless steel sculpture, Rabbit (1986), is based on a novelty balloon. In 1997, Rabbit was re-created as a giant inflatable for the much loved (and televised!) Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, bringing Koons’ work to the masses in one spectacular swoop.

[pullquote]Keith Haring, who started out in the New York subway using chalk to make his mark on unsold advertising marquees, is also prominent in the exhibition. In 1986, Haring opened a Soho retail store known as Pop Shop, where he sold t-shirts, toys, posters, buttons and magnets bearing his images, including his popular “radiant child” signature logo.

The work of Martin Kippenberger (1953-1997), a child of the Berlin punk scene, is showcased in a recreation of the first room of his 1993 Pompidou exhibition, and presents an eclectic mix of posters, paintings and objects that bear the stamp of his carefully cultivated bad boy persona.

Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, Polish artist Piotr Uklanski and Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan are also featured, as are British artists 
Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Sarah Lucas, Gavin Turk and Cosey Fanni Tutti. Ω


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