16 February 2016

Avedon Warhol at Gagosian Gallery


I would have discovered the new exhibition at Gagosian Gallery at some point anyway but it was a mixed pleasure to be notified of it through a Facebook friend who went to the opening evening. I do not get invited to things like that and so I make do with visiting it during a lunch break.

Gagosian Britannia Street, one of a few Gagosian galleries in London, is about a ten minute walk from our London office and is slightly hidden between Gray's Inn Road and Kings Cross Road.

The gallery had changed slightly since my previous visit with the introduction of a glass door between the reception area and the galleries. Like the glass door at the entrance this had somebody standing by it to open it for visitors. With two doormen and a watchful guard in each room there were about as many staff there as there were visitors when I arrived. I have no idea how their funding works.

I had heard of Andy Warhol, obviously, but Richard Avedon was a new name for me. I learned that they were put together because they were contemporaneous and their paths had crossed, one of the large Avedon photographs was of Warhol's crowd of friends and associates.

Some other Avedon photos were facial portraits, of people like Marilyn Monroe and Bridget Bardot, and so were similar in style to some of Warhol's paintings and this also helped to make the pair a good match.



The picture above of the largest room in the gallery shows how the works of the two artists were displayed alongside each other.

The Avedon photo on the left were individual pictures of a large family. They were all taken with the people standing and almost all were waist-up shots. The identical compositions made the pictures more interesting for me and it also drew my attention to the variances in the ways that the arms were posed.

The photo above also shows how powerful Warhol's portraits are and they stole the show for me. However, I was less impressed with some of his more abstract works, like Red Skull.

My favourite Warhol portrait was of Liza Minnelli but for some reason it was one of the few works in the exhibition that we were not allowed to photograph. What makes that doubly odd is that it is easy enough to find copies on official sites on the internet, such as the Sunday Times.

With Liza out of bounds I have chosen Mao to represent the portraits. I would like to have it in my house but it was not for sale and would have cost more than my house if it was. Mao was behind me when I took the picture of the room.

The only slightly annoying thing about the visit was that the pictures were not labelled on the walls and so I had to carry the two page laminated guide around with me. That was fine on my first two passes through the rooms when I was just looking at the pictures but was something of a hindrance on my third pass when I took the photos. I could have gone back to reception to return the guide but that would have meant going through the gallery door twice more and I would have felt awkward having it opened for me again.

The big positive for me in the exhibition was the number of Warhol portraits. I had seen several of them before in places like Tate Modern and the Rijksmuseum but never as many in one place. I also liked the way that Gagosian presented them with some in groups and then others, like Liza and Mao, on their own.

Avedon Warhol is on until the end of April so I shall be going back there for a refresher before it closes. That is what lunch breaks are for.

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