Review – Andy WARHOL @TheMACBelfast

20130402 MAC Andy Warhol Self-Portrait
Self-Portrait with Hand to Cheek (1977/1978), Andy Warhol

Another art exhibition review in less than a week. This isn’t my day job, honest.

After a work related meetup at the MAC Belfast, I toured the Andy Warhol exhibition. This was my first time at the MAC, so I was inspecting the venue, too.

I’m excited that Belfast has at long last a contemporary arts venue, after decades of going into the Ulster Museum to be greeted by a dinosaur. (The renovated Ulster Museum still greets you with a dinosaur; the modern art is usually spiralled away on the top floor.)

A greeter at the entrance of the MAC said hello. That welcoming feeling soon wore away when I asked for a gallery map, and was told there was one in the £3 tour guide for the Warhol exhibition. Three pounds for a gallery map?

The MAC is actually better described as a venue for examining and exploring creativity. The rooms are all disjointed, on all levels. Great when seeking a hideaway space for solitude or collaboration. Not so great for exhibitions that span more than one room. I wasn’t the only one who got lost in trying to follow the sequence of rooms.

And the exhibition itself?

Not bad actually.

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I reckon the exhibition starts in the basement, with “Warhol: A life on film”. A 28-minute loop film was running, showing interviews with those who knew him. After getting the gist, I climbed the stairs and searched around for the next room, “Warhol on marketing, celebrity and himself”. This was predominantly two walls of film posters that showed the evolution of Warhol the brand. My favourite was “Il cinema di Warhol”, with the artist’s name incorporated in a Pepsi-Cola logo.

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In this section was a room that contained an installation of floating silver, rectangular balloons. Perhaps inspiration for Jeff Koons’ balloon art?

I thought that the way to finish off painting for me would be to have a painting that floats, so I inverted the floating silver rectangles that you fill up with helium and let out of your windows.

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Next room was harder to find, but the largest by far. And this is where the curation worked best for me. Plenty of space to stand back and take in the large silkscreens. Appropriate for a Northern Ireland audience, there were “Repent and Sin No More!” and “The Mark of the Beast”. Both works are dated 1985/1986, near the time of Andy Warhol’s death and when I was making his discovery in my university art history courses. (I should have made an effort to see him during an exhibition in Newport, Rhode Island, the year before!) The works on display in this room bear out Warhol’s preoccupation with war, death and religion. A fitting finale to this pop art icon.

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It was good to see the MAC so busy on Easter Tuesday, which was open for this public holiday only observed in Northern Ireland. (I still don’t understand why the God-fearing people of Ulster don’t observe Good Friday, but that’s another issue.)

I look forward to returning to the MAC for future events, having passed an initiation of navigating its modern architecture.

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