Warhol Live Exhibition
San Francisco’s de Young Museum Art Show

By Lovelle R. Harris May 14th, 2009 – 08:24 pm PT

The room is filled with some of the most celebrated musicians of the 20th century – Dylan, Sting, Madonna. The crowd, a huddled mass of onlookers, is inches away from history. This isn’t a concert, but rather one of the rooms exploring the work of Andy Warhol through his relationship with music at the Warhol Live exhibit, currently showing through May 17 at the de Young museum in San Francisco.

“This is the second venue of the exhibition organized by curator Stephane Aquin of the Musee des beaux-arts,” says Timothy Anglin Burgard, curator in charge of American art at the de Young.

Hollywood Gallery at Warhol Live Exhibition

As those in attendance maneuver through a labyrinth of galleries displaying Warhol’s art, music is ever present. Judy Garland’s silky voice welcomes onlookers in the first gallery, simply titled “Hollywood,” with the melancholy “Under the Rainbow” as they contemplate massive silk-screen prints of Elvis Presley. “Hollywood is his first engagement in a serious, comprehensive way with music as a theme,” Burgard says. “Which is of course the theme of the exhibition.”

Connected by passageways sheathed in black velvet curtains, the audience is led from each gallery through a progression of his early work in album cover design for artists like Count Basie and John Lennon, to his experimentation with film and photography. “So the layout is essentially chronological,” Burgard says. “You go from Hollywood, when he was young Andrew Warhola in Pittsburgh watching Judy Garland and Shirley Temple and so forth.”

Bringing the Warhol Exhibition to the de Young

Bringing the exhibit to the de Young was not only a strategic move to bolster support for its continuing effort to grow the permanent collection, but it also provided an opportunity re-imagine the original show. “The original institution is often under extraordinary pressure in terms of time.” Burgard says. “You also have an opportunity as the second or third venue, in this case the second venue, to critique the original installation.”

The third gallery, containing several Warhol films shot in grainy black and white, is just one manifestation of the de Young critique. “I know in Montreal the curator had them [films] much smaller,” Burgard says. “We had a discussion about it and my feeling was since they were [originally] projected in theaters it would give them more presence.”

The Silver Factory

The Silver Factory is on display moving into the fourth gallery. Nico’s smoky voice wafts hauntingly through the room as The Velvet Underground’s “Femme Fatale” plays in the background. Black and white photographs by Stephen Shore reveal Edie Sedgwick and others candidly. A screening room, a silver-encased alcove at the end of the room, projects images of Factory regulars dancing, singing and cavorting about. “I liked how it was set up,” says 20-year-old Sarah Delaney-Buschof, a leggy brunette from Santa Cruz who took in the exhibit with friends and family. “It was so interactive.”

Mick Jagger and Studio 54

As “Satisfaction” plays in another gallery, television monitors reveal the singer writhing in a contorted mass of arms, legs, lips and hips. Dedicated to Warhol’s fascination and friendship with Jagger, the gallery, “Ladies and Gentlemen, Mick Jagger,” contains several large renderings of the singer bare-chested. In the last gallery, “Rapture” by Blondie gushes from the speakers. Oozing with ’80s decadence, the “Night Clubbing” room reveals silk-screened images of pop icons like Prince and Joan Collins with dashes of Studio 54 memorabilia scattered about. “Every time I went through the curtains it was like a different world,” Delaney-Buschof says. “It was like you were actually there.”

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