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Pop Life: Art in a Material World

Pop Life: Art in a Material World proposes a re-reading of one of the major legacies of Pop Art. The exhibition takes Andy Warhol’s notorious provocation that ‘good business is the best art’ as a starting point in reconsidering the legacy of Pop Art and the influence of the movement’s chief protagonist. Pop Life: Art in a Material World looks ahead to the various ways that artists since the 1980s have engaged with mass media and cultivated artistic personas creating their own signature 'brands'. Among the artists represented are Tracey Emin, Keith Haring, Damien Hirst, Martin Kippenberger, Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami and Richard Prince.

Pop Life: Art in a Material World argues that Warhol’s most radical lesson is reflected in the work of artists of subsequent generations who, rather than simply representing or commenting upon our mass media culture, have infiltrated the publicity machine and the marketplace as a deliberate strategy. Harnessing the power of the celebrity system and expanding their reach beyond the art world and into the wider world of commerce, these artists exploit channels that engage audiences both inside and outside the gallery. The conflation of culture and commerce is typically seen as a betrayal of the values associated with modern art; this exhibition contends that, for many artists working after Warhol, to cross this line is to engage with modern life on its own terms.

The show begins with a focused look at Warhol’s late work, examining his related initiatives as a television personality, paparazzo, and publishing impresario. Highlights include a number of works from his initially controversial series known as the Retrospectives or Reversals. Reprising his celebrated Pop icons from the 1960s, in a manner initially deemed cynical, the Retrospectives look ahead to installations by a number of artists including Martin Kippenberger and Tracey Emin, who overtly engage the self-mythologizing impulse manipulating their personas as a medium, like silkscreen or paint.Pop Life: Art in a Material World includes reconstructions of both Keith Haring’s Pop Shop and Jeff Koons's seldom reunited Made in Heaven. Haring opened the Pop Shop in 1986 on New York's Lafayette St. to merchandise his branded artistic signature as editioned objects such as t-shirts, toys and magnets aimed at as wide an audience as possible. Jeff Koons’s Made in Heaven, which debuted at the Venice Bienniale in 1990, immortalized his marital union with the Italian porn star and politician known as La Cicciolina. A specially-commissioned new installation by the celebrated Japanese artist Takashi Murakami debuts in the exhibition's final gallery.

A gallery dedicated to the so-called ‘Young British Artists’ focuses on their early performative exploits including ephemera from Tracey Emin and Sarah Lucas’s shop in Bethnal Green where they created and sold their work. Renowned pieces such as Gavin Turk’s Pop 1993 also feature, as does selected works representing Damien Hirst’s recent Sotheby’s auction, Beautiful Inside My Head Forever. Tate Modern will also restage Hirst’s performance originally shown at Cologne’s ‘Unfair’ art fair in 1992. Identical twins will sit beneath two identical spot paintings for the duration of Pop Life: Art in a Material World. Tate Modern is appealing for identical twins to take part in this performance.

The exhibition is organized by Tate Modern and is co-curated by Jack Bankowsky, Artforum’s Editor at Large, Alison M. Gingeras, Chief Curator of the François Pinault Collection and Catherine Wood, Tate Modern Curator of Contemporary Art and Performance, assisted by Nicholas Cullinan, Curator, International Modern Art, Tate Modern. Pop Life: Art in a Material World will travel to the Hamburger Kunsthalle from 6 February – 9 May 2010 and then to the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa from 11 June – 19 September 2010.
 
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