Pop Life Exhibition at the Tate Modern

Published at Suite101.com

Artists Include Warhol, Hirst, Koons, Emin, Murakami and more

Some 320 exhibits will be on display, including paintings, drawings, photographs, magazines, sculptures, videos, merchandising products, spatial installations and a shop.

Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Tracey Emin and Takashi Murakami

The exhibition Pop Life, which is showing at London’s Tate Modern from October 1, 2009-January 17, 2010, will be travelling to Hamburger Kunstalle in February.

The exhibition has brought together artists from the 1980s onwards who have embraced commerce and the mass media to build their own ‘brands’, including Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Tracey Emin and Takashi Murakami.

Good Business is the Best Art

The exhibition has taken Warhol’s provocative claim, in 1975, that “Good business is the best art” as a focal point to explore in deeper depths some of the issues between art and business.

Campbell’s Soup Cans by Andy Warhol

The exploration extends itself to look at artists’ strategies and the status if the work of art in an age of mass production. The exhibition approaches the complex interactions between artists and commerce in contemporary life from a range of critical perspectives.

Warhol’s quote is used as a starting point for a new understanding of the legacy of Pop art and the influence of its leaders. Pop Life also reflects the way artists since the 1980s have engaged with mass media and often creating themselves into a ‘brand’.

According to the Dec. 28, 2009 Art Daily article: “the message that Pop Life conveys is that Warhol’s most radical lesson is reflected in the work of artists of subsequent generations who not only reproduce everyday culture in their artworks but also strategically infiltrate this realm, appropriating the mechanisms of the market, the mass media and the omnipresence of advertising in order to reach an audience far beyond the confines of the art gallery.

“The conflation of culture and commerce is commonly regarded as a betrayal of the values of modern art; Pop Life, on the other hand, shows that for many artists who came after Warhol, the fusion of the two realms is only possible means of interacting with the modern world.

The focal point of the exhibition is the performative aspect revealed by the self-presentation and role perception of artists within the spheres of the mass media and the art business.

The artists themselves are engaged in key areas such as being celebrities, art dealers, publishers, gallerists, business owners and so forth. The Dec. 28, 2009 Art Daily article said that “they smuggle themselves in disguise into the operating systems of product and information circulation, exposing these mechanisms without having to take a personal stance. Within this lies ambiguous content of Pop Life.”

Larval Subjects by Andy Warhol

The beginning of the exhibition is an analysis of Warhol’s late work as a television personality, an advertising icon and the publisher of Interview magazine. The exhibition includes a number of works from Warhol’s series Retrospectives and Reversals, which initially was very controversial.

Other inclusions in Pop Life are reconstructions of Keith Haring’s Pop Shop and Koon’s series Made in Heaven, which is rarely presented in its entirety. Haring’s opened the Pop Shop in 1986, in New York City on Lafayette Street, to market his branded artistic signature in the form of merchandising products that were aimed at the most outrageous possible audience. Koon’s series Made in Heaven celebrates his marriage to Ilona Staller.

Hamburg Edition of Pop Life

Many rooms of the Hamburg edition of Pop Life are dedicated to Martin Kippenberger. An addition to the exhibition, that will only be shown at the Hamburg edition of Pop Life, are the early works from the collection of Gisela Stelly Augstein, a Hamburg-based filmmaker whom the artist much admired.

With this display of black-and-white photo-paintings from Kippenberger’s series Un Tedesco in Firenze, along with the ‘Ideentafeln’ (idea panels), and many letters and postcards to Stelly Augstein, the exhibition allows visitors to experience at close quarters the early stages of his development into a skilful self-promoter and social analyst.

Following in the tradition of Dada and Fluxus, Kippenberger’s provocative, mocking attacks were aimed at dismantling the traditional concept of art.

Young British Artists

There’s another section of the exhibition that is dedicated to ‘Young British Artists’, with particular emphasis being placed on their early activities. This includes the shop opened by Emin and Sarah Lucas in London, where the artists created and sold their work.

Renowned pieces by Gavin Turk are featured here alongside selected works from Beautiful Inside My Head Forever, Hirst’s spectacular auction that took place in September 2008 at Sotheby’s in London.

A specially commissioned new installation by the Japanese artist Murakami, who set up his own multinational company to distribute his art, will be shown in one of the final rooms of the exhibition.

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