Andy Warhol‘s first international retrospective exhibition was held at Moderna Museet in Stockholm from 10th February to 17th March 1968. The idea for the exhibition came from Pontus Hultén, Moderna’s legendary director, and his friend and former student colleague Billy Klüver a friend of Andy Warhol’s convinced Warhol to participate. Warhol visited Moderna Museet in December 1967 to reconnoiter and agreed to submit works including some Brillo boxes, “Marilyns“, an “Electric Chair” painting, and a 10 foot “Flowers” both made specially for the show. Pontus Hultén sent his young assistant Kasper König to finalise the arrangements together with Warhol and Billy Klüver. The catalogue, authored by Olle Granath, Kasper König and Pontus Hultén, with its “Flowers” cover became a cult item and several editions were produced.
First editions came in a cardboard box with “Andy Warhol” printed on it. There was also a limited edition of 100 copies in a perspex box (apparently few of these were sold!) Olle Granath was charged with going through Warhol’s papers to select quotes for inclusion in the catalogue. When he had submitted them for approval, Hultén phoned him and told him he had missed an important quote that “In the future everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes“. Granath replied that he hadn’t found that particular quote. but it was printed anyway. This caused a certain amount of anxiety as to what Warhol would say when he saw the quote in the catalogue–but Warhol simple shrugged and said that it was the sort of thing he might well have said. And it has since been ascribed to Warhol rather than to Pontus Hultén!
Moderna Museet decided to produce an exhibition in 2018 to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the original exhibition. The new exhibition was not intended to reproduce the original show (which would have been impossible) but to emphasis the impact that Warhol’s art had in Sweden (and Europe, as the exhibition later travelled to Oslo and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam) at the time. This type of “exhibition study”, where a new show discusses a previous one, is becoming increasingly common in the museum world.
Interestingly, in 1968, the year of student revolt in Paris and elsewhere, the reaction in the Swedish press was divided with the more left wing papers mostly approving and the more conservative ones damning the show as “non art”!
I went to the opening of the Stockholm show, where Kasper König was interviewed by Daniel Birnbaum, Moderna’s director, and Olle Granath held the opening speech. Then–as is my wont–I went through the show hoping to find some of Warhol‘s record covers and was rewarded just by the exhibition exit where eight covers were on show:
As any nerd will note, one of these covers is not by Warhol. So I sought out John Peter Nilsson, the exhibition’s curator, and told him that the cover of the East Village Other‘s album was not by Warhol. I took the opportunity to tell him about my collection of Warhol (and other) covers. He saw to it the East Village Other cover was changed to Johnny Griffin’s “The Congregation“. He told me that Moderna had plans to show the exhibition at its sister museum in Malmö during 2019.
Some time later, John Peter made a home visit to inspect my collection of Warhol record covers and suggested that he include a selection of my Warhol cover collection in the new show in Malmö. We agreed to show all the covers with Warhol‘s art that were produced during his lifetime, but not showing every single variation, in all a total of 81 covers.
In addition we decided to include some other items from my Warhol collection: the Aspen Magazine #3 from 1966, which includes the flexidisc with Peter Walker‘s “White Wind” and Velvet Underground‘s (in reality only John Cale) “Loop“, Andy Warhol’s Index (book), Warhol‘s “The Beatles” from the cover of Geoffrey Stokes‘ 1980 book of the same name and magazine covers with portraits of Michael Jackson and Prince and the promotional book from Miguel Bosé‘s “Made in Spain” album.
The Warhol 1968 exhibition in Malmö was due to open on 30th March and run until 8th September 2019. I was invited to help oversee the final hanging of the record covers. These were framed with Wag the Wall‘s beautiful Magic Vinyl Display frames which really let the covers shine.
The exhibition was designed logically with a large room devoted to the art shown at the 1968 exhibition at Moderna museet in Stockholm with nine Marilyns borrowed from Louisiana, Moderna museets own “Electric Chair“, “Multiple silver Marilyns“, and the ten foot “Flowers“. Also in that room were Warhol‘s print of his plane ticket to Stockholm, December 1967 and a Warhol self portrait (both owned by Moderna). An adjacent room showed the history of Warhol‘s Brillo boxes along one wall, whilst another wall was devoted to Andy Warhol Enterprises and Warhol‘s commercial art including a portrait of “Scandinavian Beauty“. There were three exhibition cases in the middle of the room. One held two of Warhol‘s “Red books” of Polaroid pictures, another magazines with Warhol art covers and a bottle of Warhol‘s 1982 eau de toilette för men with dollar signs on the bottle. The third exhibition case contained more record-related stuff from my collection including Margarita Madrigal‘s book “Madrigal’s Magic Key to Spanish“, “Andy Warhol’s Index (Book)“, “FAB“, the Aspen Magazine box from December 1966, a booklet from Miguel Bosé‘s “Made in Spain” promotional package and the “Swan Lake” and “Daphnis & Chlöe “LP covers.
My record covers, 80 in all, were lined in five rows on the final wall, with some more in an exhibition case nearby.
There was a massive turn out for the opening evening on 29th March with crowds gathering in front of the record covers. One visitor had a large collection of records by the Velvet Underground and by Lou Reed and admitted to owning eleven copies of the Velvet Underground & Nico! Others stood in front of the covers pointing out which ones they actually owned. Many simply admired the early covers from the 1950s and others were simply overwhelmed by the sight of 80 covers on the wall.
Moderna Museet’s director Iris Müller-Westermann held a welcome introduction followed by John Peter Nilsson who introduced the exhibition and described Warhol‘s art and philosophy after which the multitude could wander round the exhibition before a happening with a Swiss dance troupe took place. Then there was mingle in the cafeteria with shrimp cocktail and wine or beer and a DJ played Warhol-related music. A really warm and friendly meeting with what Iris Müller-Westermann judged to be one of the biggest crowds ever at an exhibition opening at Moderna museet in Malmö.
The exhibition opened to the public on Saturday March 30th and curator, John Peter Nilsson, hosted two very popular guided tours of the exhibition. There were 1136 visitors to the show on the opening day–quite a turnout as the average number of visitors to openings at Moderna museet in Malmö is about 600. Even the curator’s tours were more popular than at previous shows.