Regarding Warhol: Sixty Artists, Fifty Years just opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and boy, have critics had a field day, almost universally panning it. It seems like the Met aimed for an idea that would be a sure blockbuster hit, and we’re not sure that was the right path to go down. With almost 50 works by Warhol and nearly 100 works by artists who have responded to Warhol in some way (who are all suspiciously blue chip), the show seems pretty open ended. We’re asking ourselves: which artist hasn’t responded to Andy Warhol in some way or another? Oh yeah, pretty much none. With all this in mind, critics ask: is Regarding Warhol an intelligently curated retrospective that explores important aspects of Warhol’s work, or is Regarding Warhol a celebrity-driven, gimmicky attendance boost? We’ve rounded up the answers below:
Roberta Smith. NY Times
Everybody loves a good Roberta Smith bitchfest. Smith did not like what she saw, telling readers that “the Met has a long way to go where contemporary art is concerned.” Smith accuses Regarding Warhol of being a crowd pleaser, rather than intelligent and original, and argues that its jumble of artists create a “shapeless” show. Ouch. Clearly, Warhol is the star and the other artists sit on the sidelines, showing some thin relation to Warhol’s interest in the mundane, deadpan humor, and celebrity subjects, and that just isn’t good enough. We’re with Smith for pointing out that the show relies too much on artists who are market-hardy perennials; it’s a really boring and obvious move for the show’s curators. But it’s not all Met-bashing, and Smith eventually points out that the show is an “OK time.”
Jerry Saltz, NY Magazine
Jerry Saltz is on team Roberta Smith for this one, and has given Regarding Warhol a total panning. Highlights of Saltz insults include calling the show “shallow, pandering fecklessness”, and going as far as to suggest the Met rename Regarding Warhol “Larry’s Got Talent”? Or “Comfortably Numb” due to the large amount of Gagosian artists included in the show. Laying out his opinion in black and white, Saltz concludes that Regarding Warhol “a very bad show, with very good work”. Everything is “crisp, way too crowded, and predictable”; it’s nothing more than a crowd pleasing gimmick. Oh, dear, it seems like it’s curators haven’t really done any curation. Saltz, like Smith, points out that the artists included in the retrospective are the usual suspects: the blue chippers like Damien Hirst, Anselm Kiefer, and so on. To explore how artists were impacted by Warhol and his work, the Met should have gone further than the obvious choices.
Blake Gopnik, The Daily Beast
Blake Gopnik wants us all to know that the Met just isn’t getting it. The genius of Warhol, he points out, is to do with breaking the mould. What the Met does, by filling its galleries with contemporary “masterpieces” like Koons and Hirst, is the opposite. Gopnik faults the Met for exploring the cookie cutter museum-y themes like “color” and “celebrity”, rather than getting to the good stuff: the unique Warholian essence beneath the objects that Warhol produced. The artists included are predictable; we know exactly what we’re getting with a Hirst, or a Richter, or a Sherman, but with Warhol we didn’t even know if what we were getting was art. To look at how artists stole from Warhol’s “pop imagery” is just a little too much on the surface, and not enough under the skin.
Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker
In Peter Schjeldahl’s[Paywall] celebratory article, it seems as if Warhol, or any artist related to him, can do no wrong. Declaring a refusal to indulge in “the many possible quibbles about the selection of artists”, Schjeldahl focuses instead on mainly a bio of Andy Warhol, coupled with interjections of how Cindy Sherman, Gerhard Richter, and Sigmar Polke fare best as Warholian points of reference. Peter Schjeldahl is the only critic out of this bunch to praise curators Mark Rosenthal and Marla Prather, deeming the show “visually exhilarating” (it looks really pretty but doesn’t say a lot), and pointing out the “tidily academic” (boring) titles. Kudos for praising the efforts of the Met to curate a large contemporary exhibition, but it doesn’t stop the show from being a little too high on the “big blockbuster” scale, rather than the “well curated” scale.