Andy Warhol’s Time Capsules at the MAC in Marseille

Remember when I said that I didn’t like modern art? It’s actually the [mac] (Musée d’Art Contemporain) in Marseille that made me hate modern art when I was young. Indeed, from 11 to 14, I used to visit the [mac] at least one a year with my class. And every time, it was one of the worst day of the year! I didn’t understand (and still don’t) how people could be in awe in front of a crushed car, a pile of waste or a painting of the artist’s piss!

Since then, I learnt that modern art is diverse and that I love pop art.

I was surprised but enthused when I heard about Andy Warhol’s Time Capsules exhibition at the [mac]. I decided to go because I have always like Warhol’s work but at the same time I have always been a bit afraid of the person itself so I thought that it would be a nice way to learn more about him.

NPG x87612; Andy Warhol by John Swannell

Andy Warhola (1928-1987) was an American drawer, painter, printmaker, photographer, sculptor, film maker and music producer.
His parents had emigrated to the USA from what is now Slovakia and he was born in Pittsburgh.
Andy had fragile health as a child and got a nervous system disease called chorea. He was commonly absent at school and became an outcast. At the time, when sick in bed, Andy Warhol would collect pictures of famous movie stars, draw, read comic books, and listen to the radio, … activities which he claims to have helped shape his personality and preferences later in life.
When Andy’s father died in 1942, his main wish was that Andy continue his education to college. In 1945, Andy was accepted at Carnegie Institute of Technology where he studied commercial art. He was the first of his family to ever go beyond high school.
Soon after graduating, in 1949, he moved to New York City and changed his name from Warhola to Warhol because it was easier to pronounce. He worked as a commercial artist for magazines (Glamour, Vogue, …) and also designed advertising and window displays.
Following a decade of enormous success as an illustrator, Warhol looked toward Fine Art as a larger challenge.
It was during the 1960s that he began to make paintings of iconic American objects such as dollar bills, mushroom clouds, electric chairs, Campbell’s Soup Cans, Coca-Cola bottles and celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Elizabeth Taylor…

During these years, he founded his studio, “The Factory”, which became a meeting point for young artists, actors, musicians and hangers-on. One of these, Valerie Solanas, shot and almost killed him in 1968.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s Warhol, established as an internationally famous artist, exhibited his work around the world.

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Warhol died unexpectedly on 22 February 1987 in a New York hospital, following a gall bladder operation.
He is now considered as one of the most major artists of the 20th century for his leading role in the visual art movement known as pop art.

Andy Warhol

The idea of Time Capsules was born in 1974 when “The Factory” was moved from Union Square to larger premises. Warhol was a compulsive collector and recognized that cardboard boxes used in the move were an efficient method for dealing with all of his “stuff.”
He used these boxes to manage the bewildering quantity of material that routinely passed through his life. Photographs, newspapers and magazines, fan letters, business and personal correspondence, art work, source images for art work, books, exhibition catalogues, telephone messages, along with objects and countless examples of ephemera, such as announcements for poetry readings and dinner invitations, were placed on an almost daily basis into a box kept conveniently next to his desk.
Once the box was full, he sealed it with tape, marked it with a date or title and sent it to storage.
From 1974 until 1987, Warhol finished 612 Time Capsules. They were almost completely unknown until his death. Although various studio assistants frequently handled the boxes over the years, few people seemed to recognize the enormous mass of material as anything other than “Andy’s stuff.”
Collectively, this material provides a unique view into Warhol’s private world, as well as an insightful snapshot of the time.

Andy Warhol Time Capsule 1

Andy Warhol’s Time Capsules at the [mac] is a temporary exhibition that consists of 8 Time Capsules on loan from the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.

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The content of each box has been displayed on large panels covered by windows to allow the public study it.

Andy Warhol Time Capsule 2
I felt a bit like a voyeur, entering in the private life of Warhol. But that’s one point of the exhibition and I really loved it, being a collector of “stuff” myself since my early age.
However, I was a bit disappointed by the explanations that I found too long and not enough striking. And I was surprised that none of them was translated to English, a shame when we remember that Marseille was the European Capital of Culture in 2013!

Apart from the content of the Time Capsules, the exhibition also includes pictures, experimental movies and quotations with the aim to better understand Wahrol’s world.

The choice of the 8 Time Capsules was inspired by the Songs for Drella, a concept album about Warhol’s life, which was composed by Lou Reed and John Cale, both formerly of the Velvet Underground, for a 1989 concert in honour of the artist who discovered and managed them.
Drella was a nickname for Warhol, a contraction of Dracula and Cinderella, used by Warhol’s crowd but never liked by Warhol himself.
The song cycle focuses on Warhol’s interpersonal relations and experiences, with songs falling roughly into 3 categories: Warhol’s first-person perspective, third-person narratives chronicling events and affairs, and first-person commentaries on Warhol by Reed and Cale themselves.
This kind of music was new to me but I liked it. It was touched by the texts, full of souvenirs, regrets, incomprehensions and sadness. But I have to admit that I understood them better the 2nd time I listened to them, after having studied Warhol’s biography.

The song that I selected is called “Smalltown” in reference to Pittsburg where he grew up but didn’t fit.

You can find the whole concert on YouTube if you’re interested.

At the end of the exhibition, I decided to have a look at the permanent collection. And it was as weird as I remembered. Some pieces of art were still there, more than 15 years after my last visit. But some were new too! I let you make you opinion with 3 pieces of art from Gabriel Orozco (DS) Tony Oursler (Couch piece) and Jarg Geismar (Message in the bottle. from-me-to-you).

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Andy Warhol’s Time Capsule is a unique opportunity to discover more about his world as it’s only the 2nd time that some Time Capsules have been loaned to a museum in Europe.

Andy Warhol’s Time Capsules until the 12 April 2015 at the [mac] – Price: 8.00 €

Musée d’Art Contemporain [mac]
69 avenue D’Haïfa
13008 Marseille (in French only)

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