To much anticipation, the Newport Art Museum (NAM) recently unveiled a highly touted collection of Andy Warhol’s photography; the third showing of the artist’s work here (previous NAM exhibitions, which he attended, were in 1977 and 1985). The curated collection of images Warhol took on his Big Shot and XS-70 Polaroid cameras capture a cadre of his celebrity friends including Debbie Harry, Mick and Bianca Jagger, Lee Radziwill, Liza Minnelli, Diana Vreeland and more in addition to inspired works that were the springboard for famed silkscreens, paintings, ad campaigns and album covers (I do wish the Dolly Parton polaroid made the cut!). There are also stunning pieces from Warhol’s “Ladies and Gentlemen” collection — a series of portraits of Black and Latinx queer people and performers taken in New York in 1975, five years after the Stonewall Uprising. (The piece from from the collection of Stephanie Seymour Brant on display, a colorful pop art two-part piece, is particularly captivating).
I’ve been to the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh which holds the largest collection of his artwork and archival materials, and this exhibit in Newport is a beautiful representation of some of Warhol’s most interesting pieces. Here’s why you should check it out:
- It feels like you’re in The Before Times. Let’s face it: things feel different nowadays. Art has always been an escape — a soothing, inspiring, thought-provoking and an intensely personal experience. In the interest of self-care, I can tell you that funky, colorful pop art and celeb snaps are what you need right now.
- Safe? Socially distanced? Symptom screening? Sign me up! Rhode Island state guidelines are being followed to make your visit to NAM a safe one. Masks are required, plexi shields are at staff interaction points and capacity is limited to one guest per 100 sq. feet. which works out to about seven people in the Cushing Building at once.
- How often do you get to see the work of a modernist American maestro in your own backyard? Pittsburgh isn’t exactly around the corner so this is the easiest way you can take in one of the country’s most influential and intriguing artists. It’s a bright light in an arguably a dark time.
- “Regrets? I’ve had a few…” (<- Fun fact: well known Warhol assistant Steve Kaufman famously made a rare print from Frank Sinatra’s mugshot.) Did you miss “Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again” at the Whitney last year? You know, the first Warhol retrospective by a U.S. institution since the MoMA organized the inaugural following his passing in 1987? Here’s your chance to right that wrong.
- Debbie Harry. I mean, really. Just go see Blondie.
“Andy Warhol: Big Shot” is on display at the Newport Art Museum through Dec. 20, 2020.