The Brant Foundation‘s spectacular East Village location in NYC is well suited for a surprisingly fresh and personal take on Andy Warhol’s work over four decades. Thirty Are Better Than One (named after the artist’s 30 silk-screened Mona Lisas) features more than 100 artworks, nearly all of which are from the collection of the foundation’s founder, Peter M Brant. The retrospective runs through 30 July 2023, and provides a unique journey through Warhol’s career, from early sketches and Polaroids to his famous silkscreens and sculptures.
Warhol retrospectives are plentiful—and often repetitive and tiresome. This show is successful because of the deep, decades-long personal relationship the two men shared as friends, as artist and collector, as collaborators and as pivotal personalities in NYC’s Pop Art world. The collection’s depth and authenticity emphasizes their many connections—Brant’s curatorial skills are as sharp as his collector’s eye.
The exhibition shares some of Warhol’s early pieces from NYC during the ’50s when he was employed as a commercial illustrator. One highlight is a folding screen made in 1954 for a window at Tiffany’s titled “Pin the Tail on The Donkey” (Tiffany & Co is also the show’s lead sponsor). Artworks such as “Elvis Presley (Gold Boot)” and “Mae West” further represent this early period, foreshadowing Warhol’s later domination of the Pop Art movement. A significant piece within the exhibit is the drawing “Campbell’s Soup Cans,” purchased by Brant in 1962, his first acquisition of Warhol’s work.
Warhol’s well-known photographic silkscreens highlight his burgeoning obsession with celebrity culture. As his career entered the ’70s he began to experiment with abstraction, and pieces like those in his “Skulls” series (1976) are a treat to see in person. In his later years, Warhol’s work became increasingly introspective and political, reflecting on faith, morality and loss. While this shift is represented throughout, it is epitomized by the large-scale “The Last Supper” (1976).
If you missed The Brant Foundation’s stunning debut East Village exhibition dedicated to Jean-Michel Basquiat, Thirty Are Better Than One is a great opportunity to enjoy the building as well. Once an electrical substation, the century-old structure was formerly the home of artist Walter De Maria and was beautifully transformed by Gluckman Tang Architects.
No show is complete without an exit through the gift shop, and kudos to the merchandising team at The Brant Foundation, who’ve created some great items that you can only acquire by visiting or calling—no online sales.
The Brant Foundation Art Study Center is located at 421 East 6th Street, New York, NY 10009.
Hero image: White Disaster (White Car Crash 19 Times), 1963; 12 Electric Chairs, 1964-65; Merce, 1963; Most Wanted Men No. 5, Arthur Alvin M., 1964; eight works, each: Skull, 1976; Rorschach, 1984; Oxidation, 1977-78 by Andy Warhol / photo by Evan Orensten