Theresa Thompson has a peek at a show by an icon of pop art and more at Oxford's Ashmolean
More than 100 artworks made by Andy Warhol in the last years and months of the celebrity artist’s life, many unseen by the public, are going on show in the first of three major, and very different, exhibitions at Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum this year. Opening next month, Andy Warhol: Works from the Hall Collection exhibits every single one of the Warhols in this private collection (USA).
It is followed, from late June, with Storms, War and Shipwrecks: an exceptional exhibition telling the story of Sicily through treasures rescued by underwater archaeologists off the island’s rocky coasts. The highlight will be ‘flat-pack’ Byzantine church reconstructed for the show.
Then from October, Power and Protection: Islamic Art and the Supernatural looks at the mystical in Islamic societies via a miscellany of sensational objects and works of art from the 12th to the 20th century.
Director Dr Alexander Sturgis said: “I don’t think another museum in the country could, or would offer the breadth and ambition of these exhibitions.”
“The programme reflects some of the extraordinary breadth of collections of the Ashmolean. From the scholarly to the popular, it speaks of the Ashmolean’s unique position as a great public museum within a great university.”
Andy Warhol, curated by Sir Norman Rosenthal and Sturgis, spans Warhol’s entire output from iconic 1960s Pop pioneer pieces to experimental works of his last decade. A particularly strong group of portraits from the 70s and 80s includes fellow artists Roy Lichtenstein, Frank Stella, and Joseph Beuys, and early experiments in screen prints feature celebrities such as Patty Oldenburg and Jackie.
“This is Warhol seen through the eyes of a private collector,” says Sir Norman.
Hall who studied English at Oxford was a collector “crazy about art,” he adds. The artworks usually hang in the Halls’ US home. Additional loans of films are from the Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh.
Storms, War and Shipwrecks will give an entirely “different perspective on the complex history this island at the crossroads of the Mediterranean,” says Paul Roberts, the Ashmolean’s new Keeper of Antiquities. “Everything on show comes from under the sea”.
Without a doubt, the star of the show is what Roberts calls a “flat-packed IKEA-style church” – a fifth century marble church ready for reassembly on land, shipped from Constantinople by Emperor Justinian to instil Christianity into the peoples of Sicily and North Africa.
With treasures of all shapes and sizes, from stacks of plates to spectacular statuettes, bronze battering rams from Roman warships to coral-encrusted amphorae, and objects recovered from a Carthaginian shipwreck by pioneering underwater archaeologist Honor Frost who trained as an artist at the Ruskin, Oxford, this promises to be an unmissable exhibition.
Unmissable too, is Power and Protection, showing over 100 fabulous objects from Morocco to China.
This is the first major exhibition to explore the supernatural in the art of the Islamic world.
It looks at dream-books, talismanic charts, amulets, and much more.
- Andy Warhol self protrait
Turner Prize winner for 2012, Elizabeth Price also won the 2013 Contemporary Art Society Award. Since then she has been creating a work in response to the collections and archives of the Ashmolean and Pitt Rivers museums, and the resulting two-screen video goes on show at the Ashmolean from February 4.
And that’s not all. There are also all manner of smaller free displays, including the current Pax Mongolica (about Genghis Khan’s Mongol Empire), and an exhibition from one of China’s leading artists, Liu Dan, from October 18, all of which make for a colourful and tantalising year of art and archaeology.
For details go to ashmolean.org.
Ticketed exhibitions: Andy Warhol from February 4 to May 15, 2016; Storms, War and Shipwrecks from June 21 to September 25, 2016; Power and Protection: Islamic Art and the Supernatural, from 20 October 2016 to 15 January 2017.
Free displays: Pax Mongolica, 5 January to 1 May 2016; Scenes of Last Tokyo, 2 Feb to 5 June; Elizabeth Price, winner of the 2013 Contemporary Art Society Award, 4 February to 10 April; Pure Land (the name for the realm of the Buddha), paintings since the Tang dynasty, 1 March to 2 October; Monkey Tales, a special display to celebrate the Year of the Monkey in 2016, 4 June to 30 October; and Liu Dan, an exhibition of works from one of China’s leading artists, from 18 October 2016 to 26 February 2017.
For details see ashmolean.org.