Art of Pop: Andy Warhol Posters

Messukeskus, Helsinki, Finland
June 11, 2021 - September 26, 2021
June 11, 2021 – September 26, 2021

The ART OF POP exhibition at the Messukeskus, Helsinki features collections from two of the world’s best-known artists: Bob Dylan and Andy Warhol.

The Andy Warhol (1928–1987) Poster Exhibition, coming from what is considered the most comprehensive museum collection in the world, includes around 120 of Warhol’s framed and museum-quality original posters from the 1960s, 70s and 80s, with covers for books, magazines and albums, rare collectibles, along with dozens of editions of Interview magazine published by Warhol.

Andy Warhol was a painter and draughtsman, photographer and film-maker, he published magazines and books, he ran the Factory, made musicians and models famous – not much happened in New York’s cultural sector of the 60s to 80s which he didn’t take in with open eyes and help shape.

A less well-known fact is that Warhol started his career in the 40s as a graphic designer. He achieved great success with illustrations for brochures and books and showed these works in his first exhibitions. However, there’s no route leading from there to his later posters. Having made the switch from illustrator to free artist in the early 60s, Warhol gave up drawing pleasing illustration and from then on, he created large-format paintings with details from the world of advertising and the popular press. In his own inimitable way, he overprinted and over-painted black & white photographs with colored areas, tracing the contours with a flowing line, and repeated and varied the same motifs again and again. His pictures glorify the icons of American culture; equally their fame helped his art gain unique popularity.

From 1964 on, Warhol’s posters began to consistently accompany his appearances in the world of galleries and museums. The first of these was sent out by his art dealer Leo Castelli as a “mailer”. From then on, Warhol, like many other American Pop Artists, designed a whole series of posters for outside clients. National initiatives and subsidy programs for artist posters had been developed in New York following the example of Paris artist posters. This is how it came about that Warhol designed posters for the Lincoln Center in New York or for the cultural magazine Paris Review. His “Wallpapers”, wallpaper prints, which he had printed in the years around 1970 are a special feature. These are silk-screen prints on fixed wallpaper paper – the best known are the cows in various color combinations and the Mao head – which were used as posters or also as wall decoration, glued like wallpaper.

The seventies to early eighties was the portrait period: The wealthy and the famous, from Indian Chiefs to Hollywood Stars were photographed by Warhol with a Polaroid camera. These photos were used as the basis for paintings and silk-screen prints. Posters were almost constantly appearing for the shows in which the new series were being presented. In addition, there were other posters for special occasions such as for a Fassbinder film or the Montreux Jazz Festival. Although Warhol’s posters could not replace the large-format paintings, they nonetheless convey a vivid and impressive insight into the themes and motifs of the great Pop Artist.

The exhibition is designed by exhibition architects Taina Väisänen and Olli Laine.

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