Andy Warhol’s first international museum retrospective took place at Stockholm’s Moderna Museet from February 10th to March 17th 1968. A new exhibition entitled “Warhol 1968” was the museum’s way to remember this groundbreaking show on the 50th anniversary of the original.
By 1968 Warhol was already famous but remarkably there had not been any retrospective exhibitions of his work at any art institution. Pontus Hultén, then Moderna museet’s director, met Kasper König at a dinner party. At the time, König worked with Claes Oldenburg in New York and knew many of the New York artists of the period. He also knew Swedish ex-pat Billy Klüver, who acted as Pontus Hultén’s New York contact with American artists. Billy and Pontus were old chums, having met as students in a Student film club. König put the idea of an exhibition to Warhol. Hultén and art critic Ole Granath wanted it to be a multimedia event with paintings, Brillo boxes, helium-filled balloons and films and it seemed that Warhol agreed. There was just one little problem–Moderna Museet had very limited funds. Importing 500 of Warhol’s Brillo boxes would be too expensive, so Andy suggested Hultén had the boxes made locally, but even that proved beyond the museum’s budget. Finally the ordered 300 real Brillo cartons from the Brillo company and these had to be assembled upon arrival! Even the idea of the silver helium-filled balloons fell by the wayside as the balloons themselves were difficult to manufacture and the helium was prohibitively expensive–so the ingenious Hultén and Granath painted plastic garbage bags silver and filled them with air. They didn’t float like the helium filled balloons, and proved to become highly static and attract enormous amounts of dust! Also Warhol’s films never materialised. Apparently there was concern that showing the films in Stockholm might tarnish their reputation.
Hultén wanted Warhol’s “Cow” wallpaper to decorate the outside of the Museum, but hanging it in the cold of the Swedish winter wasn’t easy. In the end Granath had to set up scaffolding clad with hardboard and let the Museum’s decorator hang the wallpaper.
Kasper König was invited to Stockholm for the exhibition, but being young and unemployed he cashed in his plane ticket and stayed in New York. Andy Warhol made the journey to the exhibition as did Billy Klüver.
Billy Klüver was an engineer interested in art and helped artists make mechanical art works. In March 1963 he interviewed the eleven artists involved in the Popular Image exhibition which was to run at the Washington Gallery of Art from April to June 1963. Klüver produced an LP record of the interviews. He then suggested to Andy Warhol that they silkscreen covers for the records and together they made Warhol’s “Giant Size $1.57 Each” record covers. They made five variations, the “Giant Size” motif silkscreened in black on plain white covers as well as on covers spray painted red, green, yellow and orange. It is not known how many covers they printed. They were not used at the exhibition. Instead a catologue with cover image by Jim Dine, who was probably a bigger name than Warhol in 1963, was used on the envelope that contained both catalogue and record. It seems, however, that Billy Klüver had stored the covers in his cellar and some of the white covers (unsigned and unnumbered) were sold at the Moderna Museet retrospective in 1968.
Warhol 1968 — the 2018 exhibition
The exhibition was curated by John Peter Nilsson and ran from 15th September to 17th February 2019. This was not intended to be a Warhol retrospective but a reminder of Warhol’s first international retrospective. Various works were on show–Brillo boxes with an explanation of Pontus Hultén’s reproduction boxes made in 1990 for a series of European exhibitions. The story of these “fake” boxes can be read here. New boxes made specially for this show were on display. Original artworks included Warhol’s self portrait,
His portrait of Russel Means
A Brillo silkscreen
There was even some of the original 1968 “Cow” wallpaper from the Museum’s facade outside the exhibition hall.
A digital copy od Chelsea girls was running in a screening room
Obviously, I went looking for record covers! There were eight on show as one left the exhibition. These were from the collection of Susanna Rydén Dankwardt.
Before the official opening of the exhibition, there was an introductory talk by Moderna Museet’s current director Daniel Birnbaum and Kasper König (who made it this time) telling the story of the 1968 show. Afterwards, John Petr Nilsson, the exhibition curator gave a talk about the current show and asked Ole Granath about details of the original 1968 exhibition. Ola Granath then opened the exhibition. Drinks and snacks were on sale at the preview–there was a very nice wrap with a chanterelle salad wrapped in silver foil and sealed with a “Cow” sticker.
The exhibition is on until 17th February 2019, so I suggest you go and see it.