The gallery recently provided details of what will be its first Warhol show in almost 20 years. This show will reportedly explore his work through the lenses of sexuality, death, religion, and migration.
Curators have stated that the display of the 25 African-American and Latinx drag queens and trans women paintings are a particular coup.These works were commissioned by the Italian art dealer Luciano Anselmino in 1974 and first exhibited in Ferrara, Italy in 1975. “It is one of Warhol’s biggest series of works but probably the least known,” said Fiontán Moran, co-curator of the show.
Gregor Muir, a Tate director and co-curator, was the one who stumbled upon these works. “I had heard there might be these paintings in existence and I met the people who own them now and I went to visit them and it was quite the most remarkable thing. They were mostly in storage and it was just very beautiful and exciting to pull out these paintings and handle them and start to look through each and every work.”
The sitters were all recruited from the Gilded Grape Bar near Times Square, but were not originally named. Research by the Andy Warhol Foundation last year finally identified most of them, which included such prominent figures as Marsha P. Johnson. Johnson played a key role in the Stonewall uprising of 1969, and also co-founded the community group Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR).
Since the paintings were created at a time of growing public interest in gender fluidity, Tate curators believe that the paintings are just as relevant now as they were then. “It is a really amazing portrait of a community in New York at a particular time where trans people would and still do face a lot of injustice and harassment,” said Moran.
Director of the Tate Modern, Francis Morris, stated that Warhol was an “artist who feels more relevant and influential today than ever. In today’s climate, it feels important to take a more human and more personal look at somebody who was a very familiar artist.”
The exhibition will feature over 100 works, including key ones from the pop period including Marilyn Diptych, 1962; Elvis I and II, 1963-64; and Race Riot, 1964.
The exhibition will also include some of Warhol’s wigs – almost works of art in their own right, said Muir.
Highlights will also include rarely loaned works, such as a 1980 portrait of Debbie Harry, as well as one of his final works –Sixty Last Suppers, which is a 10-meter-wide canvas being shown in the UK for the first time.
Sixty Last Suppers, which is one of Warhol’s final works before his death in 1987, is one of several in the show that depict how themes of faith and mortality are recurring in his work.
For more information about the exhibit, visit tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/andy-warhol