Thursday, 17 March 2005

from the man who brought you "FLESH", "HEAT" and "SEX" - "Andy Warhol's ARCHIVE"

Tuesday night I got to a preview showing of Andy Warhol's Time Capsules, the new and interestingly strange show at the national gallery of victoria. I'm sure Melburnians have heard about this already. Warhol, it seems, got in the habit of putting stuff into boxes, this one for instance,

then sealing and storing them, and none were opened until after his death. I understand many have never been opened, including the one pictured above.

The NGV has three rooms full of vitrines holding the complete contents of fifteen or so of these, accompanied by nice big projections of selected Warhol movies, the less campy / sexy ones I think. A good way to spend an evening.

The show speaks to all kinds of usually incompatible cravings, for instance providing a nice big fix of high culture righteousness along with a very low, tabloid, going-through-the-trash-of-a-famous-weirdo rush. All the while occupying that risky territory between actual garbage and genuinely interesting chunks of the past.

Some random stuff I remember:

- two pastel maid's uniforms
- plastic 'california carrot' bags (2)
- six months' worth of New York Posts covering the period of the Iranian hostage crisis
- A letter from some editor at Vogue, beginning 'Darling Andy'
- cutlery pinched from Concorde
- leaves and leaves of beautiful drawings of shoes
- signed 8 x 10 of Shirley Temple, handcoloured (badly)
- Magic and Myth of the Movies, by Parker Tyler

I just don't know whether the gallery is the place for a collection like this, though it was a fascinating experience. Does every object that Warhol ever slid his attention across thereby acquire a fine coating of diamond dust, just because he was the guy who did most to plot the graph of celebrity as art-form? I went along not at all hostile to that idea. So it surprised me just how fast that possibility evaporated when faced with the sheer volume and mass of material on display. I needed there to be a narrative I could extract from the masses and masses of paper, even if it was an invented narrative. Actually, I guess that's perhaps an argument in favour of putting something like this in a gallery & calling it art, because it means that what the physical things do to you matters at least as much as all the things you could know about them if they weren't there in front of you.

As my friend said, it's the type of show that you need to spend a few days thinking about, so I won't even bother trying now to winkle out all the angles. (But I am very interested in hearing how other people make sense of it all.)

Another picture:


Emily said...

Interesting. I agree that stuff associated with Warhol is a bit overexposed and doesn't always feel genuine. At the same time however, its probably too bad that these are being opened. I don't think enough time has elapsed for us to fully appreciate some of the history of the objects you described. It sounds almost like instead of taking the pictures of the time, he was boxing up what could have been compositions. Silverware from the Concorde; now that those flights are no more what will we think of them down the road. Where we draw the line between trash and history (or even art) is certainly a debatable topic. And one that I dunno much about.

Lucy Tartan said...

yes, I'll buy all of that Emily. I think he probably was 'boxing up what could have been compositions' - sometimes. And sometimes, I'm pretty certain, he was just throwing crap into boxes because the box was closer than the bin. The interesting part is working out which is which.
Also it seems there are 600+ of these boxes, so at the slow rate they are being opened the last will be opened sometime next century. If anyone's still interested.