The deep dialogue that some artists engage in with other artists and their work is an understudied subject, and one that is important to me. Warhol is at once familiar and mysterious, so it was key for me to invite artist Monica Majoli to think about how to look at his work and life anew: to imbue this artist we think we know so well with a different kind of life. —Nicola Lees
‘Andy Warhol: Lifetimes
’ looks at Warhol’s life as a parallel to his work. So, I wanted to start by speaking about intimacy and the relationship that you’ve developed through the research stages of putting this exhibition together. We’ve talked about how his images are so familiar and so iconic that they’ve become distanced within a canon and yet, at the same time, Warhol is so present.
I’ve always admired Warhol. I think of some of his work regularly — the early works from the 1960s, his early portraits of Jackie [Kennedy Onassis], etc. The ‘Death and Disaster’ series, which he began in 1963, was important for me because of its extremity. Also, the way it dealt with temporality and touch, and the mediated image.
I discovered things about Warhol through the years, but I never did a deep dive into his life. I didn’t have preconceptions about who he was. I’d had a more abstract idea of him, through images of him, and I’ve always been much more focused on his work. I don’t recall ever having closely read his diaries before.
Emphasizing archival materials seems like a way to make his life palpable in a different way, so that it’s not all about the work that we know so well, but it’s about these materials around it that can make the work feel new again and connect to him, as an artist, but also as a person.
We’ve done an immense amount of research through this process. What was surprising to you?
The complexity of Warhol’s personality. You wonder how he reconciled certain things like being a devout Catholic with his relationship to sex—voyeurism, his homosexuality. When I read about him, part of what was surprising to me was how vulnerable, insecure and endearing he was. There was a sweetness to him; he was a romantic.
There are interesting ways that Warhol operated and what I’m finding compelling is how that doubles back or reflects, somehow, his personality or his life story. It’s like a puzzle. There were so many different periods of his life and work and a multifaceted quality to his practice. But then there are also through-lines, and his personality is reflected in these different modes of making.