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Contemporary Art

Andy Warhol’s Dynamic Disco—Shadows

As a supporter of the exhibition, Sotheby’s made a special visit to “Andy Warhol: Shadows”, offering an exclusive report from the cultural frontlines to art lovers around the world.


The West Bund has now become an undeniable landmark in Shanghai’s artistic and cultural scene, host to a colourful array of artistic activities. Numerous art museums, theatres, artist and design studios have emerged, with the YUZ Museum – a former airport hangar along the Huangpu River converted into a contemporary art space – now among the most vibrant. While respecting the facility’s original tin sheets and red brick walls, a strikingly modern glass hall is connected to form a dazzling interplay between art and industry, history and contemporary design. The museum has hosted quite a few exhibitions of international renown, including an Alberto Giacometti Retrospective that resonated both in Shanghai and beyond. Most recently, the Museum has opened its doors to another celebrated artist, Andy Warhol, whose Shadows is currently on display.

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THE YUZ MUSEUM WEST BUND SHANGHAI.

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© The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts/Artists Rights Society (ARS),

A Warhol series from 1978–79, Shadows is a monumental work comprising two similarly abstract images silkscreened on 102 canvases of identical size, but with different background colours, adding to it a dream-like quality. Shadows has since been entrusted to its commissioner, the Dia Art Foundation, one of the art world’s most acclaimed institutions that has maintained its focus on those who rose to prominence in the 1960s and 1970s. At one time, the Dia Art Foundation held more than 200 of Warhol’s works. Since then, all of the artist’s output has been donated to the Warhol Museum except the monumental Shadows, which has remained with the Dia.

The exhibition entrance is clearly marked with the sign “Shadows’ Coming,” appropriately conveying both the work’s celebrated status and the expectation of the viewer. The series has only been shown complete, with all 102 canvases, at the Dia Art Foundation and the Hirschhorn Museum. This Shanghai exhibition marks the first complete exhibition of Shadows in Asia.

The Museum has extended and widened its exhibition space (135 linear metres, with total area of 1000 square metres) specifically for Shadows, with whitewashed walls providing an eye-catching contrast to the silkscreen paintings. Standing in the middle of the space, the visitor is surrounded by images on all four energy-charged walls. Lighting emphasises the bold colours of Pop Art, with strong iconic lines that intersect, undulate and juxtapose with the frequency of heartbeats to invigorate the viewer’s senses. Mr. Budi Tek, the founder of the YUZ Museum, has tremendous respect for Warhol, stating, “I’ve seen many of Andy Warhol’s works, but when I stand in the middle of this series of more than 100 paintings, I still feel its shocking effect. Shadows touches the heart.”

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ANDY WARHOL, SHADOWS,1978-1979. INSTALLATION VIEW IN YUZ MUSEUM, 2016. COLLECTION DIA ART FOUNDATION, NEW YORK.
 © THE ANDY WARHOL FOUNDATION FOR THE VISUAL ARTS, INC./ ARTIST RIGHTS SOCIETY (ARS), NEW YORK.

Someone asked me if I thought they were art and I said no. You see, the opening party had a disco. I guess that makes them disco décor.
-Andy Warhol

In contrast to most of the artist’s silkscreened canvases with surfaces that are smooth and polished, Warhol and his entourage at the Factory added a layer of paint, with brushstrokes that appear random yet add a unique surface texture to each canvas. The seemingly slight Shadows is therefore imbued with movement and rhythm. Warhol once said, “Someone asked me if I thought they were art and I said no. You see, the opening party had a disco. I guess that makes them disco décor.”

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OVERPOP AT YUZ MUSEUM SHANGHAI. ©YUZ MUSEUM SHANGHAI. EXHIBITION DESIGN BY STUDIO GARDÈRE. PHOTO BY ALESSANDRO WANG.

Warhol had a long association with China. As early as 1982, he visited China, with a photo of himself taken in Tiananmen Square. His classic Pop Art painting Mao has won its place in the modern canon. During an era when information was seriously lacking in China and the artist was world-famous, Chinese contemporary artists could only get to know Andy Warhol through travel abroad and perusing art magazines. Thanks to such exposure, they embarked on many new paths of aesthetic expression. Among these artists were Zeng Fanzhi, Wang Guangyi, Xue Song, Li Shan, Ai Weiwei and Yu Youhan – all of whom are renowned contemporary artists today. In 2013, Andy Warhol’s retrospective 15 Minutes Eternal made a stop in China during its international tour, a comprehensive showcase of the artist at a scale that was unprecedented at that time.

This visit to the YUZ Museum includes a surprise bonus. On the floor below Shadows by “the King of Pop” is an exhibition entitled OVERPOP featuring 17 artists and their works created after 2010. In this internet age, we witness a further deepening of the Pop Art tradition in China in response to the interaction between high art and pop culture. After experiencing the hedonistic abandon of Warhol’s “disco” reminiscent of the 1980s on the upper floor, go downstairs for a wild ride that aims well into the future.

 

*Andy Warhol: Shadows is on view through 15 January 2017 at the Yuz Museum, Shanghai. The exhibition catalogue is published with the support of Sotheby’s.

Translated by Joanna Lee.

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