I’d be prepared to take bets that Love is Enough, curated by Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller, will prove to be Modern Art Oxford’s most popular show ever.

Deller has brought together William Morris, the founder of the British Arts and Crafts Movement and Andy Warhol whose Pop Art created some of the world’s most famous images. They may seem unlikely bedfellows but seen together it is hard not to get the comparisons Deller wants us to make.

The Upper Gallery is a great space but one that is difficult to use successfully.

Emerging from the stairway you are immediately struck by the wow factor. Deller has divided the area into two, which has enabled him to create four galleries with different themes. His inspired choice is to display the Warhol on large areas of reproduced William Morris-designed wallpaper. It looks rich, fabulous and colourful.

Two tapestries dominate the first gallery. A Quest for the Holy Grail (Panel 6) designed by Edward Burne Jones and made by Morris & Co, faces Marilyn Munroe, depicted on the 1968 tapestry of the Hollywood star. It is from the private collection of Larry Wasser and is here being displayed in a public museum for the first time.

In the 20th century, ‘Camelot’ was also used to describe the court of John and Jackie Kennedy. In his calculated manner, Warhol decapitated Jackie’s image from a magazine portrait and used the head on a silkscreen print. For Warhol the Holy Grail was in Hollywood. Next to his Marilyn is a signed hand-coloured print of Shirley Temple treasured by the 13-year-old Andy who was obsessed by celebrity. After that the second gallery is a stark contrast: we enter the realm of the political.

With Morris it comes as no surprise. He was an advocate of socialism. Among his writings on display is a copy of the official journal of the Socialist League in which a meeting was advertised to take place at the Temperance Hall, 25 Pembroke Street, on September 2, 1886. Morris’s links with Oxford were deep, and in last week’s The Oxford Times, Chris Gray noted a visit to the city by Warhol in February 1980.

Deller said: “Just as Morris criticised the British Empire, Warhol chronicled the American Empire.” Pictures of race riots and of the electric chair are in this section. Moving past the most reproduced image in the world that of Chairman Mao we enter the Middle Gallery where Deller examines their commer-cial art and design activities.

Morris’s socialism was a world away from Mao’s. Morris loathed the factory system: he admired medieval craftsmen working within the community. The irony of his ideal of ‘art for all’ was that the individually crafted work he marketed could only be afforded by the comfortably off.

His older contemporary, the designer Christopher Dresser, had the same ideal but understood that it was only deliverable with some kind of mass production. Dresser is almost forgotten because his name was seldom on his designs. His Morris-like wallpapers were produced years before William’s. Jeremy Deller says: “Morris was the first brand!” and he is right because his name or the company name was everywhere. Warhol also worked subversively with design and wanted it to be part of everyday life and not elitist.

Deller said: “Warhol ruined me. In 1986, aged 20, I was at the Courtauld studying baroque art until I hung out at the Factory and witnessed his new way of disseminating art.”

Deller wants the Piper Gallery to be a visual delight. Indeed Warhol’s Camouflage is just that. Deller explores their printing techniques and that connects nicely with the Blake at the Ashmolean. In conclusion Deller says: “For me, these two figures have so much in common, not least their tendency to be contradictory. Morris railed against capitalism and yet he established a shop in central London bearing his family name, and Warhol’s trademark blankness, I think, belies a deeply political artist. With Love is Enough I’m asking the audience to suspend their disbelief momentarily and make connections about art across two centuries.”

Warhol and Morris
Modern Art Oxford
Until March 8