National Galleries of The Grand Palais
In 1962, Andy Warhol painted the portraits of Marilyn Monroe and her rival Liz Taylor, reinterpreted the Mona Lisa and Elvis Presley. From 1967 until his death in 1987, he produced commissioned portraits of dozens of personalities, famous or obscure, creating a world fascinated by appearances, a vertiginous flattering mirror. He revived a neglected genre, applying new codes which deeply marked the history of portraiture. Alongside film and rock stars (Brigitte Bardot, Jane Fonda, Mick Jagger, Sylvester Stallone), we find portraits of artists (Man Ray, David Hockney, Joseph Beuys, Keith Haring), collectors and art dealers (Dominique de Menil, Bruno Bischofberger, Ileana Sonnabend, Leo Castelli), politicians (Willy Brandt, Edward Kennedy), fashion designers (Yves Saint-Laurent, Sonia Rykiel, Hélène Rochas), businessmen and jet-setters (Gianni Agnelli, Lee Radziwell, Princess Grace of Monaco, Gunther Sachs). Famous or less famous, they all glow with the aura of Warhol’s genius.
In this series, Warhol painted a picture of an entire society and invented a new form of artistic production – serial and almost mass produced. In his studio, “The Factory”, Andy Warhol developed a systematic process in the early 1970s: he made up his models and photographed them with a Big Shot Polaroid (the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh has several hundred of these photos, some of which will be presented in the exhibition). He carefully selected the shots, then painted and silk screened the portraits.
A selection from the thousand or so portraits that he painted from the early 1960s onwards is here presented by themes focusing on the key points in Warhol’s work: Self Portraits, Screen Tests, Mao, Dollars, Disasters, The Last Supper…, which situate them in a retrospective view of his production.
In 1979, the Whitney Museum exhibited about fifty of these paintings, but since then – despite the fact that many of them have become “icons” – they have not been shown in a single-artist exhibition. With the aim of recreating the effect of the principle of repetition which Warhol had in mind when he painted them, the Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais is presenting, for the first time, this large set of paintings which constitutes an unprecedented archive in the history of painting and photography.
“All my portraits have to be the same size, so they’ll all fit together and make one big painting called Portraits of Society. That’s a good idea, isn’t it? Maybe the Metropolitan Museum would want it someday.”