Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

When the Wow Wears off; Warhol Was Tate Modern's Most Successful Exhibition, but It Is Not a Formula That the Gallery Can Afford to Rely On

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

When the Wow Wears off; Warhol Was Tate Modern's Most Successful Exhibition, but It Is Not a Formula That the Gallery Can Afford to Rely On

Article excerpt

Byline: ANDREW RENTON

TATE Modern's Andy Warhol exhibition, which closed last week, was the gallery's most successful exhibition by far. Some 4,000 paying customers a day filed through the show, which attracted more than 220,000 visitors in its seven weeks. By my reckoning, in terms of contemporary art, only the headline-grabbing Young British Artists' Sensation, at the Royal Academy, has surpassed these figures in recent years.

The Warhol show achieved its success not by contention, but by smart partnerships and great timing. For two months we saw Warhols writ large upon all of London's main thoroughfares. This was a Channel 4 advertising campaign to support its three-part documentary on Warhol. The Tate doesn't have such resources to promote a show; the best it could manage were some modest posters on the Underground. The television series was timed to run at the opening of the show and, while it barely registered a flicker on the ratings, it gave a massive boost to the Tate.

Warhol's philosophy made him perfect for such media promotion. He understood very well notions of branding. His work showed us how the mass-produced image entered every aspect of our lives. For our generation, they were more important images than great art. Then he made the images into great art, by reproducing them - again and again.

I would like to think that we now realise how much we need Warhol and how, some 15 years after his death, we are beginning to understand his legacy. The show was a critical as well as a popular success. Many reviewers took it as a redefinition of Warhol; he had become a "serious artist".

Warhol died in 1987. For a long time afterwards, the art world didn't quite know what to make of him, particularly of his later work. Indeed, his sale prices went down in the first months after his death, as panic ensued over whether his technique had produced just a little too much " product" to sustain values. But in the week of the Tate's show opening, a wave of Warhol hit the showroom; at the London Gagosian Gallery, prices were up to [pound]175,000 apiece for the late paintings that even a year or two ago would have languished in the stock room. …

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