Pop Culture Mama: The Wonderful World of Warhol

Pop Culture Mama: The Wonderful World of Warhol

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Warhol Unlimited-Cows
Andy Warhol (1928-1987) in front of the Cow Wallpaper, 1965 © Steve Schapiro/Corbis © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / ADAGP, Paris 2015

One of the great things about raising kids in Paris is how much history and culture they absorb just by walking around. A casual stroll through the center of town will expose them to classic architecture, contemporary sculpture and haute couture, all before lunch. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean we are all raising little art aficionados. If your kids are anything like mine, they would still rather watch YouTubers play video games than spend an afternoon at the museum.

WarholOver the years, I’ve gotten smarter about planning cultural outings. I no longer give them a choice of whether to go, but of what to see. I present three or four options, and the kids get to decide. (It gives them the illusion of free will, heh heh heh). During the Toussaint vacation, their pick was to see the Warhol Unlimited exhibit at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville (MAM).

I was not totally surprised by this, as my 11-year old son has been interested in Warhol since he performed a John Cale song about him in his 1st grade English class (for which I give major props to his then-teacher). In fact, Warhol is an excellent choice to introduce young kids to art as they’re likely to find his brightly-colored pop art sensibilities appealing.

As my son said, “It’s not like the usual stuff you see hanging in museums. Anything can be art.”

Warhol Unlimited
© legacy1995 / 123RF Banque d’images

I still have fond memories of seeing his larger-than-life Campbell’s soup cans at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art when I was a kid. For older children, it’s also a good way to kick off a deeper discussion of what constitutes “art” and the role of the artist and spectator in post-modern times, notions that Warhol played with in all his work.

Warhol Unlimited: Shadows at MAM
Andy Warhol, Shadows, 1978-79.
Photo: Bill Jacobson Studio, New York. Courtesy Dia Art Foundation, New York © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / ADAGP, Paris 2015

Warhol Unlimited is ostensibly the occasion to present the first European showing of “Shadows”, a piece comprised of 102 silkscreen canvases in 17 different colors, covering 130 meters of wall space (which Warhol actually referred to as “décor” rather than art). As large as it is, there probably won’t be many future opportunities to see this work in person, so this is a rare opportunity. But the exhibit also serves as a mini-survey of Warhol’s extensive career, offering up a taste of his greatest hits.

Warhol and flowers
Andy Warhol, Gerard Malanga and Philip Fagan at the Factory, New York, 1964. Photography by Ugo Mulas. ©Ugo Mulas Heirs. All rights reserved. Courtesy Archivio Ugo Mulas, Milano–Galleria Lia Rumma, Milano/Napoli ©The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./ADAGP, Paris 2015

Despite the ambition, the show is very manageable size-wise and includes silkscreened portraits, excerpts from some of his films (don’t worry, nothing risqué), a collection from his Flowers series as well as his iconic soup cans and Brillo boxes. Kids will especially like fluorescent cow wallpaper and the Silver Clouds room, where helium-filled pillows float around the room with help from electric fans. There, viewers are not only allowed, but encouraged to touch the art.

Warhol Unlimited runs through February 7, 2016 at MAM, and for those patient enough to brave the line, you can even finish off the exhibit by taking a Warhol-ized self-portrait at the state-of-the-art photo booth. On your way out, don’t forget to stop by Dufy’s monumental mural, The Electric Fairy, commissioned by the Paris electric company for the 1937 World’s Fair. As colorful as Warhol’s work in a completely different style, the mural makes an interesting counterpoint to “Shadows” and is a reminder of how lucky we Parisians, big and small, are to see these amazing works up close and in person.

Elizabeth Brahy
Elizabeth Brahy is a native of Los Angeles, where she worked for many years in film development. After moving to Paris 20 years ago, Elizabeth worked in the film and television industries before becoming a freelance writer and editor. An admitted pop culture nerd, she loves comedy podcasts, YA books and American television (as well as art museums and the ballet). Elizabeth is a board member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators France, and co-hosts the podcast "Alex & Mom vs The World." You can follow her on twitter at @expat_eliz

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