Skip to Content

Floor 7

Since the museum’s inauguration in 1994, there has been a steadily increasing level of recognition of Warhol’s singular contribution to twentieth-century art and his extraordinary influence on contemporary art internationally. The Andy Warhol Museum has been at the forefront of research on the artist’s work and has paved the way for new scholarship and understanding of his complex, multivalent practice.

The collection galleries, which begin here on the 7th floor and continue throughout the remaining floors, are chronologically organized and feature masterpieces from the collection alongside rarely seen artworks and archival material that provide new perspectives on the artist’s life and work.

The museum’s collection comprises almost 8,000 paintings, sculptures and works on paper, in addition to vast archives and extensive holdings of film and video. Regarded as the most comprehensive single artist museum in the world, The Warhol is uniquely placed to reveal the multiple narratives that contribute to the overall trajectory of Warhol’s career.

Gallery 701

The Warhola Family

Andy Warhol was born Andrew Warhola in Pittsburgh on August 6, 1928. He was the youngest of three sons born to Carpatho-Rusyn parents, Andrej and Julia Warhola. Like masses of immigrants before them, the Warholas left their homeland in Eastern Europe in search of a better life. As devout Byzantine Catholics, the family attended church regularly and observed many customs of their heritage. Julia made traditional handicrafts such as “pysanky,” or decorated Easter eggs, while also supervising the home. Andrej worked long hours in many manual jobs such as a building-mover.

Warhol suffered bouts of chorea, a nervous disorder more commonly known as “St. Vitus’ Dance,” which occasionally kept him home from school. While at home, Warhol liked to read comics and Hollywood magazines and to play with paper cut-outs. Enraptured by the movies, he often went to local cinemas and watched short cartoons at home.

Andrej Warhola died in 1942, the same year that Andy entered Schenley High School. In order to support the family, Julia worked as a house cleaner, while her oldest sons Paul and John operated a fruit-and-vegetable truck and worked odd jobs. As a high school freshman, Warhol began to paint portraits of his family and friends as well as local landmarks. Andrej had always intended that Andy attend college, and before he died he set aside funds for his youngest son’s education.

Art School

Warhol was encouraged to develop his creative talents from early childhood. Beyond his family, his strongest advocate was Joseph C. Fitzpatrick, the renowned instructor of Saturday art classes at Carnegie Museum of Art, which Warhol attended for four years beginning in the fourth grade.

With the money the family saved for his education, Warhol enrolled in the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University). He attended college from 1945 to 1949, studying under the artists Balcomb Greene, Robert Lepper and Samuel Rosenberg. Frequently the center of controversy, Warhol struggled with his early coursework and was required to take summer classes. Despite the turbulence he caused, a slim majority of faculty and students recognized his innovative style and fresh ideas.

Warhol was an active participant in college life. He was a member of Carnegie Tech’s honorary Beaux Arts Society and the Modern Dance Club, and in 1948 he became art editor for the student magazine Cano. He also worked in the display department at Horne’s department store to earn money. His abilities to increase his income while pursuing creative interests and to cultivate a dynamic social circle are skills Warhol later put to good use in building his career.

Upper Torso Boy Picking Nose

Andy Warhol
Upper Torso Boy Picking Nose, 1948-1949
Graphite on off-white bond paper
The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Founding Collection, Contribution The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

As a young art student, Warhol embraced an offbeat and sometimes irreverent style that often did not win the praise of his professors. In the face of his critics, Warhol entered an unapologetically bold painting titled, The Broad Gave Me My Face, But I Can Pick My Own Nose, modeled after these earlier drawings, in the 1949 juried Associated Artists show in Pittsburgh. The work was rejected, despite apparently being defended by artist and juror George Grosz, whose own work was often satirical in nature. Warhol reentered the drawing with a new title, Why Pick on Me?, in the Arts and Crafts Center group show, which included work by his fellow Painting and Design students. Warhol’s two submissions were among the 33 selected from 111 entries, and his provocative painting drew larger crowds than the other works.

New York City

After graduating from Carnegie Tech with a bachelor’s degree in pictorial design, Warhol made the life-changing decision to move to New York City. Accompanied by his classmates Philip Pearlstein and Leila Davies Singeles, he immediately set about the process of looking for work as a commercial artist. Warhol was hired that summer by Tina Fredericks, the editor of Glamour magazine, to illustrate an article titled “What is Success?”

Quickly building an impressive roster of clients, Warhol soon became one of the most successful commercial illustrators in the city. He won numerous industry awards, including recognition from his peers at the Art Directors Club, the American Institute of Graphic Arts, and the Society of Illustrators. By the mid-1950s Warhol was able to employ an assistant, and by the end of the decade he was earning approximately $70,000, an incredible salary for that time.

Early Drawing Andy Warhol

The early drawings of Andy Warhol and Ai Weiwei are marked by personal history and a world-view at odds with the laws of contemporary society. Warhol was celebrated for his charming “blotted line” technique, which had considerable impact on commercial design in the 1950s. But at the same time, he kept sketchbooks containing deeply personal and intimate drawings of friends and other men in the nude, kissing, or posing with props. Drawing for Warhol was both a means to success and an outlet for private sexual desire—not only taboo, but also criminalized, as homosexuality was illegal in 1950s America.

In 1956, after gaining acclaim and financial independence through his commercial illustration work, Warhol planned and funded a trip across the globe with, love interest and friend, Charles Lisanby. Although Warhol’s hope for romantic connection did not result, he traveled with Lisanby for six weeks, flying from San Francisco to Honolulu, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Manila, Java, Bali, Singapore, Nepal, Calcutta, Cairo, and Rome.

He also kept sketchbooks during his time in Southeast Asia, making ink drawings of local scenes and historical sites. Beijing was closed to foreign visitors from 1949–1974 and was not on Warhol’s travel itinerary. Many years later, in 1982, Warhol finally made his way to China with a small entourage including photographer Christopher Makos.

World Travel vitrine

A selection of ephemera collected by Warhol on his trip around the world in 1956: money from countries (including Ceylon, Java, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Italy, and the Netherlands), brochures for hotels and tourist attractions, and tickets to operas in Italy and art museums in Holland. Warhol’s habit of collecting such travel souvenirs ultimately evolved into his Time Capsules, started in 1974. Time Capsules created by Warhol are on display on the third floor of the museum.

Cashmere Suit Vitrine

In 1956, during his trip around the world Warhol was fitted for this cashmere suit in Hong Kong. As with much of his clothing, he later gave it to his family members here in Pittsburgh for their use. During his college years in the late-1940s, Warhol wore a hand-me-down woolen pea coat that his eldest brother, Paul, acquired during his wartime service in the Navy.

Early Drawing Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei’s drawing, like that of Andy Warhol’s 1950s sketchbooks, functioned as an outlet for a repressed voice. Ai’s early works display the poetic sensibility of a young artist whose childhood was largely spent in western Xinjiang province, a remote desert area 2,100 miles from Beijing. Ai’s father, the eminent poet and intellectual Aì Qīng, was labeled “rightist” (that is, anti-Socialist with bourgeois tendencies) by the Communist regime and was sentenced in 1958 to manual labor and “re-education” during the Cultural Revolution. The family was forced to move from Beijing, Ai’s birthplace, to a remote district in the northwest region of China. After Mao Zedong’s death and the end of the Cultural Revolution, the family returned to Beijing in 1976.

For the first sixteen years of his life, Ai lived a simple, isolated life alongside his parents, but with a keen awareness of the watchful eye of the government. In 1978, two years after Ai returned with his family to Beijing, he entered the Beijing Film Academy and became involved in burgeoning democracy movements and the avant-garde artists’ collective The Stars Group. He created these drawings during that time. While classical in appearance, they are marked by an individualistic world view and artistic experimentation at odds with the officially sanctioned genre of painting, Socialist Realism. In 1981, Ai moved to the U.S., living mostly in New York until 1993 when he returned to China.

Commercial Work

Warhol’s professional success as a commercial illustrator was largely due to his ability to create art very quickly and his willingness to respond to the revisions clients demanded. One of the most well-known 1950s ad campaigns he helped create was for I. Miller Shoes. The idea of decorative beauty was exaggerated in almost all of these illustrations, and at times the image of the shoe became very abstract. The I. Miller campaign was so successful in creating an aura of elegance that in some of the ads the shoes were not shown at all; everyone knew what was being sold. Other clients included book publishers, record companies, and fashion magazines.

Among the art directors with whom he worked, Warhol was known for his timid yet appealing personality. He was a quick study—given an assignment, he would turn in a brown paper bag full of drawings on the subject the very next day. His simple yet sophisticated drawing style, in contrast to the era’s burgeoning use of photographic advertising, appealed to art directors, as well as to post-war Americans, who were becoming savvy consumers.

Edelman Commission Work

In the late 1950s, Arthur and Teddy Edelman commissioned Warhol to create numerous advertisements for their company Fleming Joffe, a leather -goods manufacturing company that sold exotic material to the fashion industry. The Edelmans were looking for innovative and stylish designs, and Warhol helped them merchandise unusual animal skins by developing personalities for each product line. He developed a cartoon character named “Noa the Boa” as a design concept for a line of dyed boa constrictor skins. In his conceit for the mischievous creature, Warhol suggested that wherever fashionable women traveled, shopped or socialized, Noa would be there too. Warhol hand-painted this awning with brightly colored images of the smiling snake for the Edelmans’ St. Louis showroom. Inside the shop he painted images of Noa on shelf brackets, lighting fixtures, and other display items.

Gallery 702


“What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. ... A Coke is a Coke, and no amount of money can get you a better Coke.”
—Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol, born on the cusp of the Great Depression, lived through a transformative time in American history. In his work, Warhol took a critical look at the American way of life, which had embraced a mix of new Capitalism and Consumerism after World War II. Warhol borrowed images from popular visual culture and mass media such as advertisements and comics, incorporating logos and products into his work, most notably Coca-Cola and Campbell’s Soup.

Across the globe and thirty years later, Ai Weiwei came of age during the Cultural Revolution, which lasted roughly from May 1966 until 1976. During this period, known as the “years of chaos,” faith in Communism was reignited with Chinese government-imposed purges of people, ideas, and objects deemed bourgeois, or “rightist.” Ai moved to New York in the 1980s and attended Parsons School of Design. It wasn’t until after his return from the U.S. in 1993 that he began to look at Chinese art with a critical eye.

Ai became intrigued by the various forms, colors, designs, and scripts employed by Chinese dynasties that he observed while visiting antique markets with his younger brother. His first work arising from this interest was Han Dynasty Urn with Coca-Cola Logo, 1994. As Ai notes, “the actual form of the script, the brushstroke, seemed to follow very closely the shape and form of the vase itself.” The script he refers to is not from ancient China. It is the logo for Coca-Cola—a symbol of America’s mass consumer society of the 1960s that Warhol also employed as a motif. In 1978, the Coca-Cola Company was the first major American firm to enter the Chinese market, and, now China is its fourth-largest global consumer. With this simple gesture, Ai merges the historical past and commercial present of a nation.

Hand-painted Pop

By the end of the 1950s, Warhol began to devote more energy to painting. He was drawn to the Pop Art movement, which began in Britain in the mid 1950s. Pop artists were inspired by popular culture, taking images directly from advertising or newspaper sources for their artworks. In 1961 Warhol created his first Pop paintings based on comics and ads.

Warhol made many of these early works by enlarging images from magazines and photographs with an opaque projector and then hand-painting the projections on canvas. He used rubber stamps to print directly onto canvas in such works as S&H Green Stamps and used stencils in his early Campbell’s Soup Can paintings. Warhol first employed the commercial process of silkscreen printing in the Dollar Bill paintings. The silkscreens were created from hand-drawn reproductions Warhol made of one-dollar and two-dollar bills. His first silkscreened paintings based on a photographic source was Baseball, 1962.

Photographic silkscreen printing replicated the look of commercial advertising, giving Warhol a faithful duplication of his appropriated source images while also allowing him to experiment with over-printing, off-registration, and endless color combinations.

Do It Yourself (Sailboats)

Andy Warhol
Do It Yourself (Sailboats), 1962
Acrylic, graphite, and Letraset on linen
The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. and Dia Center for the Arts

Warhol created only five Do It Yourself paintings. This rare series demonstrates the artist’s experimentations with Pop imagery. Like the iconic Campbell’s Soup Can paintings, the Do It Yourself works use instantly recognizable imagery as subject. Warhol opened the door for anything to be considered a worthy focus in art. These “paint-by-number” works are directly related to the act of painting by children and hobbyists. Warhol pokes fun at the seriousness of the art world and the dominant painting style of the time, Abstract Expressionism. These painters valued freedom, expressive and intuitive paint-laying, and the originality of the artist’s hand. Warhol proposes that a dime store painting kit, replete with instructions on exactly how to paint, where to paint, and with what colors to paint, is just as legitimate a subject. Perhaps more importantly, he reinvents painting as a figurative endeavor, over that of abstraction.

Do It Yourself (Sailboats) is a new museum acquisition made possible in collaboration with Gagosian Gallery

Coca-Cola [2]

This painting, one of Warhol’s first attempts at the Coke bottle, is pivotal in his career. The source for the image was an ad from his mother’s Pittsburgh Byzantine Catholic World newspaper. With its heroic scaling of the consumer product rendered in gestural black and gray strokes, Warhol’s composition might be easily compared with Abstract Expressionist paintings. In addition, this work provides evidence that Warhol’s transition from hand-painted works to silkscreened ones did not happen overnight. Close scrutiny of the canvas reveals that he first sketched out the composition in crayon and then painted over it with a brush.

Neolithic Pottery with Coca-Cola Logo

Ai Weiwei
Neolithic Pottery with Coca-Cola Logo, 2007
Metallic paint, earthenware jar
Collection of Larry Warsh, New York

Bringing together a readymade cultural artefact (after Marcel Duchamp) and pop-cultural imagery (after Andy Warhol), Ai’s painted Neolithic vase presents a rich albeit uneasy confrontation of elements. The Coca-Cola logo – emblem of American capitalism and brand identity – adorns an ancient, revered Chinese artefact. In branding a unique handcrafted object with a product of mass-consumption, Ai delivers a nuanced cultural comment, candidly invoking the conflicted contemporary identity of Chinese cultural heritage, socialist government and capitalist economics.

Big Torn Campbell’s Soup Can (Pepper Pot)

Warhol’s use of the popular everyday product Campbell’s Soup launched his career as a Pop artist. The early 1960s saw the beginning of the pervasive influence of television, instant communications, and instant celebrity. Warhol understood the influential power of advertising and packaging in convincing people to buy all kinds of things. The product’s familiar red-and-white label was immediately recognizable to Americans, and eating Campbell’s Soup was a widely shared experience. Warhol himself said, “Pop art is about liking things,” and claimed that he ate Campbell’s Soup every day for 20 years. This quintessential American product represented modern ideals: it was inexpensive, easily prepared, and available in any food market. Warhol turned to this subject repeatedly throughout his career.

S&H Green Stamps

S&H Green Stamps were distributed by the Sperry Hutchinson Co. beginning in 1896. These iconic stamps symbolized thrift and saving for many Americans. The stamps were sold to retailers that in turn gave them to customers as bonuses with every purchase. The more people purchased, the more stamps they received. A certain number of stamps could be traded in for merchandise, so retailers enjoyed customer loyalty through this successful program. According to company accounts in the mid-60s, eighty percent of U.S. households collected green stamps. The S&H program declined in the 1970s and 80s, but was reinvigorated by the birth of the Internet and new ownership. The company now offers “green points” as rewards for on-line purchases.

Floor 6

Gallery 603

Silkscreen Printing

In 1962 Andy Warhol began using photographic silkscreen printing. This commercial process allowed him to easily reproduce the images he appropriated from popular culture.

First, Warhol would crop the original source image and then send it to a commercial printer to be enlarged and transferred onto a silkscreen. The printer would make a film or transparency of the cropped image and photographically “burn” it onto a silkscreen using light-sensitive emulsion.

This process involved placing the film onto the silkscreen and exposing it to a bright light. The emulsion hardened into the mesh of screen in the areas exposed to light. Wherever the light was blocked by the black areas of the film, the emulsion didn’t harden and was washed away with water, thus creating a stencil which allowed ink to pass through the open areas of the screen.

Warhol would often “underpaint” his canvases before printing. Sometimes he painted the backgrounds a solid color. At other times, he traced specific areas of the image, such as the subject’s lips or hairline, onto the canvas and then filled the areas with vibrant colors. After the underlayer dried, Warhol would print the screen by dragging the rubber blade of a squeegee across the screen, pushing ink through the tiny holes in the mesh. These tiny ink dots created a printed image.

Three Marilyns

Andy Warhol
Three Marilyns, 1962
Acrylic, silkscreen ink, and graphite on linen
The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Founding Collection, Contribution The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

Warhol’s paintings of Marilyn Monroe were made from a production still from the 1953 film Niagara, and are among his first photo-silkscreen works. Warhol recalls that he began using this process in August 1962: ‘When Marilyn Monroe happened to die that month, I got the idea to make silkscreens of her beautiful face – the first Marilyns’. The repetition of Monroe’s image can be read as a memorial for the deceased American icon as well as a reflection of the media’s insatiable appetite for celebrity and tragedy.

Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn

Ai Weiwei
Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, 2015
Lego blocks
Courtesy National Gallery of Victoria

Ai’s photographic triptych Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, 1995, which shows the artist holding, releasing and smashing a Han dynasty vase, is one of the artist’s most iconic works and demonstrates his critical engagement with China’s violent cultural tradition. Drawing attention to the desecration of cultural heritage, the artist’s performative action is presented matter-of-factly, with the viewer left to contemplate the event and what might be salvaged from the destruction. Ai has recreated the image here in children’s building blocks, in pixelated form, attesting to the distribution of images by digital technologies.

Colored Vases

Ai Weiwei
Colored Vases, 2011
Neolithic pottery 3500-5000 BC, industrial house paint
Courtesy of a private collection and Chambers Fine Art

In Ai’s series of Colored Vases, ongoing since 2006, Neolithic and Han dynasty urns are plunged into tubs of industrial paint to create an uneasy confrontation between tradition and modernity. In what might be considered an iconoclastic form of action painting, Ai gives ancient vessels a new glaze and painterly glow, appealing to new beginnings and cultural change through transformative acts of obliteration, renovation and renewal.

Elvis 11 Times

Warhol created his paintings of Elvis Presley using a publicity still for the 1960 film Flaming Star. By the early 1960s, Elvis had abandoned live music performances for a busy movie career, eventually starring in 33 feature films. The painting’s serial, overlapping, and blurred image printed on silver paint suggests the repetition and movement of film frames as well as Hollywood’s silver screen.

The monumental canvas was part of a series of Elvis and Liz paintings first exhibited at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles in September 1963. Irving Blum, the gallery director at the time, remembers his astonishment when Warhol sent a roll of uncut canvas to the gallery with the simple instruction: “The only thing I really want is that they should be hung edge to edge, densely—around the gallery. So long as you can manage that, do the best you can.” It became Blum’s job to cut the roll into formatted paintings and mount them on stretchers of various sizes. Elvis 11 Times is considerably larger than the other Elvis paintings because it remained on a roll in Warhol’s studio and was not shown in Los Angeles.

Silver Liz [Studio Type]

The first series that Warhol painted on a silver background were the Electric Chairs and Tunafish Disasters, suggesting that the silver paintings were related to death. Even in the Elvis 11 Times and Liz paintings, which appear to highlight the Hollywood careers of both actors, there is an underlying theme of mortality.

Warhol chose the source image for this painting of actress Elizabeth Taylor from a publicity photograph for her 1960 film BUtterfield 8 [sic]. He created this portrait when Taylor was at the height of stardom but also very ill with pneumonia. Warhol later recalled: “I started those [pictures of Elizabeth Taylor] a long time ago, when she was so sick and everyone said she was going to die. Now I’m doing them all over, putting bright colors on her lips and eyes.”


Deeply affected by media reports surrounding President Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, Warhol began a large portrait series of Jacqueline Kennedy. Based on images from magazines and newspapers, these portraits were shown individually and in groupings. By isolating and repeating Jackie’s image, Warhol suggests both the solitary experience of the widow and the collective mourning of the United States. Commentators have noted that television became a unifying force during this period as people compulsively watched the tragic events. Warhol’s multiple images offer the viewer an obsessive re-enactment of this central incident in US history.

Gallery 601


“Duchamp had the bicycle wheel, Warhol the image of Mao. I have a totalitarian regime. It is my readymade.”
—Ai Weiwei

Marcel Duchamp, the enigmatic French artist and pioneer of conceptual art, looms large in the work of Andy Warhol and Ai Weiwei. Duchamp’s invention of the readymade—an everyday object designated as art by the artist or by its gallery context—is among the most significant influences in twentieth-century art. The art of both Warhol and Ai helped to spur the reappraisal of Duchamp’s work in New York in the 1960s and again in Beijing in the 1990s.

Duchamp’s emphasis on ideas over artistic skill was foundational to Warhol’s employment of industrial fabrication and serial production, as well as to his critique of originality, authenticity, and the commodity status of the art object. Equally, Ai was engaged with Duchamp’s work in New York in the 1980s and in Beijing in the 1990s. Ai’s fascination with Duchamp equipped him, as a Chinese artist, with a non-traditional repertoire of neo-Dada strategies and a conceptual approach that included linguistic play, irony, institutional critique, and negation.

Duchamp himself appears in Warhol’s Screen Test: Marcel Duchamp, 1966, and in Ai’s Hanging Man, 1985/2009, in which the French artist’s profile is fashioned from a coat hanger, in the form of a question mark.

Safe sex

Ai Weiwei
Safe sex, 1986
Raincoat, condom, wood
Private collection, New York

Safe Sex—a raincoat with a condom issuing from its waist—was produced while Ai Weiwei was living in New York in the 1980s. The work calls forth the mysterious, erotic language of Marcel Duchamp, and at the same time introduces a social dimension to the idea of the ‘assisted readymade’ art object by referencing the increasingly detached and forbidding nature of socio-sexual relations at the height of the AIDS crisis.

Hanging Man

Ai Weiwei
Hanging Man, 2009
steel coat hanger
Collection of Larry Warsh, New York

One of the first works made by Ai on arriving in New York in 1983 was the ‘assisted readymade’ Hanging Man, in which the enigmatic profile of French artist Marcel Duchamp is fashioned from a coat hanger. The work represents Ai’s earliest engagement with the Duchampian tradition of the readymade and artistic engagement with found objects. Equally inspired by the practices of Dada and Surrealism, Ai’s portrait of Duchamp inaugurates a body of work in the 1980s in which the artist embraced neo-Dada strategies and a conceptual approach that included linguistic play, irony, institutional critique and negation – ideas that reappear throughout his career.

Campbell's Soup

Warhol’s paintings of Campbell’s Soup Cans were first exhibited at the Ferus Gallery, Los Angeles, in 1962, and he returned to the subject repeatedly throughout his career. The works’ readymade commercial imagery, mechanical manufacture and serial production ran counter to prevailing artistic tendencies, offering a comment on notions of artistic originality, uniqueness and authenticity. The familiar red-and-white label of a Campbell’s Soup can was immediately recognizable to most Americans, regardless of their social or economic status, and eating Campbell’s Soup was a widely shared experience. This quintessential American product represented modern ideals: it was inexpensive, easily prepared and available in any supermarket.

Tea Brick

Ai Weiwei
Tea Brick, 2006
Compressed pu'er tea leaves
Courtesy of a private collection and Chambers Fine Art

Ai’s Ton of Tea is a readymade object redolent of the artist’s cultural context and heritage. Ai’s compressed cube of Pu’er tea – a staple of Chinese life, trade and custom– recalls not only the commercial aesthetics of Warhol’s Brillo Soap Pads Box but also the minimalist sculpture of postwar American artists such as Donald Judd, while introducing a specifically Chinese historical reference and cultural narrative into the readymade tradition.

Concrete Block

Andy Warhol
Concrete Block, 1982
The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Founding Collection, Contribution The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

Concrete Block is one of a series of works in which Warhol filled cardboard boxes with wet cement, boldly signing his name in it before leaving it to set. The act of signing wet cement is typically associated with vandalism rather than authenticating a work of art, and also references the tradition of Hollywood stars autographing a square of wet cement on the sidewalk at Grauman’s Chinese Theater, now the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Warhol freely signed his name to objects, considering it the price of celebrity. Empty candy boxes were also used in the series, given away as presents to friends.

You're In

Andy Warhol
You're In, 1967
Spray paint on glass bottles in printed wooden crate
The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Founding Collection, Contribution The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

Warhol was interested in the democratic cultural significance of mass-produced consumer goods. Popular grocery items distributed in vast quantities worldwide, at an affordable price, represented the best and brightest of American consumer society. Warhol’s first paintings of Coke bottles appeared in 1961. Here the artist turned to readymade objects as source material, coating the actual soft drink bottles with silver paint. Three years later Warhol went a step further by filling 100 silver bottles with a perfume he rakishly labelled ‘You’re In’ / ‘Eau d’ Andy’. Not surprisingly, the Coca-Cola Company responded with a cease and desist letter.

This Side Up

Andy Warhol
This Side Up, 1962
Silkscreen ink and graphite on linen
The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Founding Collection, Contribution Dia Center for the Arts

In 1962 Warhol embarked upon a series of works based on shipping and handling labels, such as Open this End, Handle With Care-Glass-Thank You, Fragile Handle with Care, Fragile, and This Side Up.  In the majority of the 16 paintings in this larger series, Warhol relishes the regularity of the grid created by the rectangular red and white labels.  In this way, he finds harmony with the likes of Agnes Martin and other minimalists. In this particular version, Warhol purposefully misaligns the grid, favors an uneven inking of the screens, and leaves white gaps that add an unusual surface tension to the composition.

Brillo Soap Pads Box

Andy Warhol
Brillo Soap Pads Box, 1964
Silkscreen ink and house paint on plywood
Brillo Box (3¢ Off), 1963-1964
The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Founding Collection, Contribution The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

First created in late 1963, Warhol’s Brillo Soap Pads Box recasts the Duchampian readymade through the lens of American popular culture. Warhol produced approximately 100 of these boxes for his exhibition at Stable Gallery, New York, in March 1964, where they were tightly packed and piled high in a display reminiscent of a grocery warehouse. Unlike Duchamp’s use of real objects as readymade works of art, Warhol’s Brillo Soap Pads Boxes are carefully painted and silkscreened to resemble everyday consumer items. For philosopher Arthur C. Danto, Warhol’s Brillo boxes marked the end of an art-historical epoch and represented a new model of how art could be produced, displayed and perceived.

Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests

“I only wanted to find great people and let them be themselves…and I’d film them for a certain length of time and that would be the movie.”
—Andy Warhol, 1980

In January 1964 Andy Warhol moved his studio to a large loft that his friend Billy Name decorated with silver paint and aluminum foil. Called the “Silver Factory,” it became the center of his social scene and attracted a diverse crowd of artists, friends, and celebrities, many of whom would pose for a short film portrait. Warhol made almost 500 of these Screen Tests in the span of two years.

Warhol used a stationary Bolex camera loaded with a 100-foot roll of black-and-white 16mm film. The subjects were instructed to sit still and face forward for about three minutes, the length of time it took for the roll of film to run through the camera. Warhol later projected the silent movies in slow motion, thereby extending their duration and imbuing them with a dreamlike stillness.

The Screen Tests were organized into the compilation films The Thirteen Most Beautiful Boys, The Thirteen Most Beautiful Women, and Fifty Fantastics and Fifty Personalities and were shown at the Factory in different versions depending on who was in attendance. They were also used in Warhol’s 1966–1967 multimedia happening the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, projected with the live music of the Velvet Underground and Nico.

Screen Test Machine

Create your own screen test!

In much the same way Andy Warhol made his Screen Tests, you can shoot a silent film portrait of yourself to share with your family and friends. You are the artist and the “Superstar.” Decide how you would like to present yourself by selecting the background and lighting that you prefer. Position yourself in front of the camera and then follow the instructions on screen.

The sound of the camera will let you know you are being recorded. It takes three minutes to shoot a screen test. When the sound stops, your portrait is complete. Your film will be transformed digitally to slow motion, and after approximately five minutes you will receive an e-mail from the museum with instructions for viewing it.

Please do not touch the camera or the lights in the installation.

Screen Test: Marcel Duchamp

Andy Warhol
Screen Test: Marcel Duchamp [ST80], 1966
Black and white 16mm film transferred to digital file, silent, 4 min 24 sec at 16 frames per second
The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh
Contribution The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

Screen Test: Marcel Duchamp is one of approximately 500 filmed portraits of friends, colleagues and visitors to Warhol’s studio, known as The Factory. Marcel Duchamp is arguably, along with Pablo Picasso and Warhol, the most influential artist of the twentieth century, whose invention of the "readymade"—a found object presented as art—redefined the notion of what art might be. Here the enigmatic French artist nonchalantly smokes a cigar, takes a drink and smiles quizzically, returning Warhol’s and the viewer’s gaze in a decidedly deadpan manner.

Early Film

“I never liked the idea of picking out certain scenes and pieces of time and putting them together, because…it’s just not like life….What I liked was chunks of time all together, every real moment…I only wanted to find great people and let them be themselves…and I’d film them for a certain length of time and that would be the movie.”
—Andy Warhol, 1980

As a child in Pittsburgh, Warhol immersed himself in Hollywood movies, going to neighborhood cinemas with his older brothers and keeping a scrapbook of movie star photos. After Warhol moved to New York, his success as a commercial artist provided him the means to start making films. Beginning with Sleep in 1963, he made a number of groundbreaking silent films including the eight-hour-long Empire.

Warhol produced a wide range of films between 1963 and 1968 including absurd two-reelers scripted by playwright Ronald Tavel, hundreds of Screen Test portrait films, vérité dramas capturing his Superstars engaged in everyday activities, and “sexploitation” features. In 1966, he made his most commercially successful film, the three-hour-long, double-screen The Chelsea Girls.

Gallery 602

Exploding Plastic Inevitable

Warhol’s expanded cinema and multimedia performance the Exploding Plastic Inevitable (EPI), featuring the band the Velvet Underground and Nico, debuted in April 1966 at The Dom, a Polish meeting hall in New York City. In the context of Warhol’s own practice, the EPI evolved from his work as a filmmaker, the social environment of his studio, and earlier performances known as Andy Warhol, Up-Tight, in which members of Warhol’s entourage antagonistically confronted the audience while the Velvet Underground played onstage.

The EPI was a sensorial assault—an immersive sound-and-light environment involving numerous collaborators. Warhol shot new footage that was projected simultaneously with older films as part of the show. Danny Williams helped orchestrate light effects, including strobes, follow spots, and assorted colored gels and mattes; Jackie Cassen created psychedelic slides; Gerard Malanga, Mary Woronov, and Ingrid Superstar staged dance routines with sadomasochistic theatrics; and the Velvet Underground performed their proto-punk songs and avant-rock improvisations at ear-splitting volume.

In May 1966, the EPI hit the road to present its collective media chaos to audiences in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Detroit, Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Boston, Provincetown, and Providence. The EPI returned to New York City in the spring of 1967 to perform the final shows at The Gymnasium on the Lower East Side and at Steve Paul’s midtown club, The Scene.

The museum’s evocation in the next room of the EPI is the result of detailed research into the original performances. It includes films that were projected during the shows, digitized copies of the slides, mattes that were used, and live recordings of the Velvet Underground and Nico.

Caonima Style

Ai Weiwei
Caonima Style, 2012
Video, color, sound, 4 minutes 15 seconds
Ai Weiwei Studio, Beijing

Caonima Style is Ai Weiwei’s take on South Korean rapper Psy’s enormously popular music video, Gangnam Style.

Chaoyang Park

Ai Weiwei
Chaoyang Park,
Video, color, sound, 3 minutes 50 seconds
Ai Weiwei Studio, Beijing

In 2013, The Ai Weiwei Studio released Ai Weiwei’s music album “The Divine Comedy,” which features six tracks with vocals and lyrics by Ai Weiwei and music by Zuoxiao Zuzhou. The videos Dumbass and Chaoyang Park are from that album. On the choice of music as his latest creative endeavor, Ai wrote on his blog, “During my detention, the conditions were very restrictive, but the guards would often secretly ask me to sing for them. Being in that environment makes me realize that for these people, the only available release or means to kill time, is music. I felt deeply sorry that I couldn’t do it, either I was not in the mood or I didn’t think I can sing. The only songs I knew were the revolutionary ones. It is the same for many Chinese people; we had to memorize every red song. Creating music is a way to break through that situation.”

Floor 5

Gallery 502

The Silver Clouds

“I don’t paint anymore, I gave it up about a year ago and just do movies now. I could do two things at the same time but movies are more exciting. Painting was just a phase I went through. But I’m doing some floating sculpture now: silver rectangles that I blow up and that float.”
—Andy Warhol, 1966

In April 1966 Warhol opened his light and music extravaganza the Exploding Plastic Inevitable (EPI), a complete sensorial experience of light, music, and film at the Dom, a large dance hall in the East Village in New York City. Running concurrently with the EPI was Warhol’s bold and unconventional exhibition at the prestigious Leo Castelli Gallery that comprised two artworks: the Silver Clouds and Cow Wallpaper.

Constructed from metalized plastic film and filled with helium, the floating clouds were produced in collaboration with Billy Klüver, an engineer known for his work with artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Yvonne Rainer, and John Cage. Warhol originally asked Klüver to create floating light bulbs; an unusual shape that proved infeasible.

Klüver showed Warhol a sample of the silver material and his reaction to the plastic sparked a new direction, “Let’s make clouds.” They experimented with cumulus shapes, but the puffed rectangle was the most successful and most buoyant. The end result was what Warhol was looking for from the beginning—“paintings that could float.” Silver Clouds, like the EPI with its flashing lights and overlapping films, was an explosion of objects in space and presented an immersive, bodily experience for the viewer.


Rainforest, 1968
Merce Cunningham, choreographer
Richard Leacock and D.A. Pennebaker, filmmakers
16mm film, color, sound, 27 minutes
Courtesy of Pennebaker Hegedus Films, Inc.

Merce Cunningham, the celebrated choreographer, known for his collaborations with Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, first saw the Silver Clouds during Warhol’s 1966 opening at the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York. Cunningham was enraptured by the work and asked Warhol if he could use the floating installation as stage décor for his piece Rainforest. The Clouds although visually captivating were temperamental—hovering near the lights or lingering too close to the stage floor—and eventually had to be tethered to the ceiling. Sharing the stage with the silver installation, dancers wore minimalist costumes with rips and slashes that subtly revealed their bodies. Cunningham originally asked Warhol to design costumes to coordinate with the Clouds. He was, however, disappointed when Warhol proposed that the dancers perform nude. Ultimately, it was Johns who designed the flesh-colored woolen costumes, which were inspired by a pair of Cunningham’s old, ripped tights. The video on view is a recording of the original 1968 performance.

Gallery 501

Social Disease

“I have Social Disease. I have to go out every night. If I stay home one night I start spreading rumors to my dogs.”
—Andy Warhol

Between 1982 and 1987, Andy Warhol and Ai Weiwei were living in New York at the same time, only a short walking distance from each other. However, their paths did not cross and their worlds could not have been more different. Ai socialized with Chinese expatriates and artists. Warhol, by then a famous figure, was fully immersed in the world of celebrity.

Warhol’s photographic activity accelerated in the second half of the 1970s, referred to by his close friends as the “high party years.” His photographic journal Exposures chronicled fashion, celebrity, and the decadent social scene of Warhol’s milieu. Warhol wanted to call the book Social Disease, a daring title, which his publisher rejected. By this time, Warhol was producing hundreds of commissioned portraits of celebrities, socialites, and friends. These celebrity portraits showcase Warhol’s extraordinary stylistic diversity, highly developed sense of color, and keen understanding of fame.

Having left China for America in the early 1980s, Ai was exposed to—and took snapshots of—some of the most dynamic activist movements for civil rights in the U.S., particularly on the streets of New York, which helped to strengthen his belief in individual freedom and social justice. Rather than being influenced by the trends of the 1980s and the conceptual practices of Richard Prince and Sherrie Levine, Ai’s New York photographs reveal a deeper sympathy with the more direct expression of Warhol.

Ai and Warhol share an interest in street scenes, intimate moments with friends, and glimpses of society unadorned and exposed. Their photography also anticipated the role of images in our social-media era. Warhol’s portraits were based on instant Polaroids and enlarged to standard 40x40 inch canvases—seemingly foreshadowing the standard formats of social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook, which promote and archive society’s current infatuation with self-presentation. One of the most popular quotes associated with Warhol’s brand, that quintessential catch phrase, “in the future, everyone will be world- famous for 15 minutes,” rings truer in our social-media world than ever before. As Ai has noted, “It’s hard for reality to compete with the stimulation, active exchange, and intensity that the digital world can offer. You may say that this is not the real world. But for many people, the Internet is not only real; it is closely tied to the future.”

Portraits of the 70s

Many consider Warhol to have been a portrait artist, first and foremost. If one counts up his silkscreened, commissioned portraits and adds them to his cinematic portraits, which he called “screen tests,” the sum total exceeds over a thousand subjects.

This gallery has been installed to evoke Warhol’s Portraits of the 70s exhibition, which opened at The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, in November 1979. Curated by Warhol’s close friend David Whitney, the exhibition included 56 double-portraits of artists, fashion designers, collectors, art dealers, socialites, and friends, as well as one of his mother, Julia, who passed away in 1972.

The essay by Robert Rosenblum in the exhibition catalogue described Warhol as the “ideal court painter to the 1970s international aristocracy” and placed his work in the venerable European tradition of portrait painting.

The exhibition foregrounded Warhol’s extraordinary stylistic diversity and highly developed sense of color, while also openly showcasing an aspect of his painting practice that he characterized as “business art.” As his former associate Bob Colacello reflected, “After the 1979 Whitney show, the private-portrait business hit new heights. I estimate that in the early eighties Andy was painting about fifty clients a year.” At $40,000 for a two-panel portrait, the private commissions added another $2 million to annual profits. Keenly attuned to the shifting relationship between high art and contemporary culture, Warhol was unapologetic in his incorporation of lucrative business models as part of his art practice.

Bowl of Pearls

Like many of Ai Weiwei’s sculptures beautiful and luxurious materials are employed to emphasize the shift in labor practice and wealth disparity in China. For Ai, who grew up in a rural desert, pearls were considered luxurious, unique and rare. The pearls on display here are not the highly coveted saltwater pearls first cultivated in Japan, but are freshwater pearls, which are cheap and ubiquitous. Ninety-nine percent of these lesser valued pearls originate in China, where they are produced in high volumes. Known for their irregular shape and inconsistent, unusual coloring, freshwater pearls are referred to as Rice Krispies. It’s hard not to see the connection to rise in this presentation of the pearls, which is not only a staple of the Chinese diet, but central to the nation’s economic and political development. Here Ai is revealing the tensions between the craftsman traditions of China’s past and its present emphasis on cheap labor and materialistic wealth.

Floor 4

Surveillance and the State

“ … I act, because I see the danger. And if you don’t act, the danger becomes even stronger.”
—Ai Weiwei

“They always say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”
—Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol and Ai Weiwei were both under government surveillance at points during their lives. As the son of the poet Aì Qīng, who was denounced by the Communist Party of China, Ai was sent with his family to a labor camp when he was one year old. Warhol lived most of his life under a legal system that criminalized consensual sex between men. Ai endured years of intense surveillance from the Chinese government, which became public in 2011 when he was arrested and subjected to various forms of interrogation tactics. Throughout his imprisonment and his house arrest, he employed Instagram and other media to expose the unrelenting surveillance of the Chinese government. The FBI began watching Warhol in the late 1960s, after he was suspected of producing and transporting obscene material—namely his art films, which contained material that was deemed criminal at the time.

Individual freedom and the power of the state are shared subjects for Warhol and Ai. Warhol began exploring the electric chair as a motif in 1963, for example, and the image remains a potent symbol of state power and criminal discipline. Warhol’s iconic Death and Disaster series as well as his Guns, and Thirteen Most Wanted Men paintings explore the pervasiveness of violence and its media coverage in the U.S.

As an artist and human-rights activist committed to freedom of expression, Ai has advocated individual acts of resistance against state, political, or corporate power. Ai’s irrepressible impulse to defy the authority of the state is illustrated through his art and political activism. After Ai criticized Chinese government policy on his blog, the site was shut down by authorities in 2009. He was detained without charge for eighty-one days in 2011. Ai regained his right to travel only recently, in July 2015, when his passport was reinstated.

Surveillance Camera,

Ai Weiwei
Surveillance Camera, 2006
Private Collection

Surveillance Camera is an example of Ai’s practice of employing traditional materials to address contemporary cultural contexts. Sculpted in marble, this Orwellian motif is given the elevated status of a significant artefact, symbolizing the loss of personal freedom in an age when our actions are ubiquitously monitored. Based on surveillance cameras trained upon Ai’s studio in Beijing, the work holds personal and political significance for the artist, who has been the target of surveillance and censorship by authorities for his outspoken criticism of the Chinese government.

Study of perspective series

Ai Weiwei
Study of perspective series, 1995-2003
Gelatin silver photographs, type C photographs
Neugerriemschneider, Berlin

The Study of Perspective series of photographs depicts Ai defiantly raising his middle finger to architectural monuments symbolic of state and cultural power. Measuring the distance between the artist and his subject, the composition of these works invokes the spatial relationship between the individual and the state while also echoing the unforgettable image of a lone demonstrator blocking the path of a military tank at Tiananmen Square in 1989.

IOU Wallpaper

Ai Weiwei
IOU Wallpaper, 2011-2013
Digital print on wallpaper
Ai Weiwei Studio, Beijing

Following his detention in 2011, Ai was accused of tax evasion and fined the equivalent of more than AUD $2.4 million. Many thousands of individuals offered cash in support, and Ai wrote a promissory note to each person who loaned him money. Ai’s gesture suggests a communal conception of capital and exchange, and represents the wider networks of communication and collective resistance Ai has cultivated online and through social media.


Ai Weiwei
Handcuffs, 2015
Ai Weiwei Studio, Beijing

This pair of handcuffs sculpted in jade – the most precious stones in Chinese culture – replicate those worn by Ai during his imprisonment in 2011. Historically, the wearing of jade was reserved for high-ranking members of the imperial family, and today wearing jade jewelry is still believed to bestow good health and protection upon the wearer. Here Ai recasts this material and its historical cultural connotations in relation to the containment of dissident political expression in contemporary China.


Andy Warhol Gun, 1981-1982
Acrylic and silkscreen ink on linen
The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Founding Collection, Contribution The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

Images of death and disaster were a recurrent theme for Warhol from the early 1960s onwards—a preoccupation fatefully realized at a personal level in 1968 when he was shot and seriously injured by the radical feminist writer Valerie Solanas. The gun in the painting is similar to the .22 pistol that Solanas used. While it may be read as autobiographical, Warhol’s Gun series can also be considered in the tradition of still life. It reflects on the ubiquity of violence in popular culture and the media, as well as the role of guns in US culture.

Fabis Statue of Liberty

Andy Warhol
Fabis Statue of Liberty, 1986
Acrylic and silkscreen ink on linen
The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Founding Collection, Contribution The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

Warhol returned to the Statue of Liberty image many times during his career, repeatedly adapting the iconic form from different stylistic angles. In this work, Warhol focused on Lady Liberty’s face to produce a heroic celebrity portrait. The painting was created in 1986—100 years after the statue arrived in New York as a gift from France. The Fabis logo in the painting’s left corner is that of a French cookie company. Warhol played with all sorts of brands and logos in large-scale paintings of this period, often juxtaposing brands on top of images in contradictory and humorous ways.

Most Wanted Men No. 2, John Victor G.

Andy Warhol
Most Wanted Men No. 2, John Victor G., 1964
Silkscreen ink on linen
The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Founding Collection, Contribution Dia Center for the Arts 2002.4.4a - 2002.4.4b

Warhol was one of several artists commissioned to produce mural-scaled works for the exterior of the New York State Pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City. He painted a huge mural of thirteen criminals, based on official police department mugshots. As critic Richard Meyer noted, the mugshots were a perverse contradiction of the Fair’s stated goals of "wholesome entertainment" and "dedication to man’s achievement."" The mural caused a media scandal and was painted over. Warhol later made these canvas versions of the mural portraits, which underscore his interest in the glamorization of violence in American media and entertainment culture.

Tunafish Disaster

Andy Warhol
Tunafish Disaster, 1963
Silkscreen ink and silver paint on linen
The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Founding Collection, Contribution The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

Tunafish Disaster is based on photographs that accompanied a newspaper story about two women whose deaths were possibly caused by a spoiled can of tuna. Their pictures ran next to an image of the tuna can with the caption, "Did a leak kill ... Mrs. McCarthy and Mrs. Brown?"" Warhol replicates the image of this processed food in much the same way as his Campbell’s Soup paintings. While the early Pop paintings of consumer products evoked the upbeat nature of consumer advertising and marketing, Tunafish Disaster reveals a fatal industry mistake. Borrowing from the eye-catching style of tabloid journalism, Warhol reflected the clash of dreams and violence in 1960s America.

Baby formula

Ai Weiwei
Baby formula (container rather than installation), 2013
Baby formula, plastic
Ai Weiwei Studio, Beijing

Baby Formula references the ongoing food security scandal and safety of infant milk powder in China. In 2008 at least six children died and 300,000 fell ill after drinking formula adulterated with industrial melamine. Despite government reassurances, further incidents occurred. In 2014 Ai produced an installation depicting a map of China made from tins of tainted baby formula, with provinces divided by the brands of milk available. Here the baby formula is presented as a Duchampian readymade similar to Andy Warhol’s Tunafish Disaster of 1963, which also alludes to the corruption of consumer goods.


Ai Weiwei
Illumination, 2014
Type C photograph
Ai Weiwei Studio, Beijing

This self-portrait was shot by Ai in an elevator while being taken into police custody in 2009. On the night before the trial of a fellow political activist in Chengdu Ai was preparing for, Chinese police officers forced their way into his hotel room around 3 am and arrested him. This candid, documentary-style snap plays on the tradition of the ‘selfie’ in contemporary social media, transforming the form into a political tool. Illumination is a defiant expression of personal autonomy.


Warhol’s first Mao paintings were based on a photograph of Mao Zedong taken from his famous “Little Red Book” of quotations (1964). Warhol appropriated the subject matter of totalitarian propaganda to create a Pop portrait of the Communist leader. Created in 1972, the year U.S. President Richard Nixon travelled to China—signaling a thawing of tension between the two nations, after almost three decades of intense political rivalry—Warhol’s paintings address the cult of personality surrounding Mao. The Mao paintings, prints, and wallpaper highlight the status and influence of the Chinese leader at the height of the Cold War as well as the strategic repetition that the Chinese government employed to solidify his image and role in society.

In the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution, avant-garde Chinese artists embraced a wide range of aesthetic positions, including Pop and postmodern critiques of Socialist Realism (sometimes known as “cynical realism”), to recalibrate Chinese historical images and propaganda. Ai’s large-scale, hand-painted images of Mao produced in the mid-1980s in New York, for example, provide a deadpan critique of official state imagery. In Ai’s representations of Mao, he draws on distortions of his image taken from television screens and painterly abstraction.

Mao vitrine

“The Little Red Book” was an essential tool in Mao’s “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution,” during which millions of Chinese citizens were forced into manual labor, and tens of thousands were executed. The Revolution was not declared over until 1977, the year following Mao’s death. The book became an important reference for European intellectuals, especially in Paris, and also for political organizations such as the Black Panthers in the United States.

Photographic reproduction (Mao Tse-tung)

Photographic reproduction (Mao Tse-tung), ca. 1972
color photographic reproduction on paper

The source image for Warhol’s series of portraits, a mass produced lithograph of Mao’s official portrait. This image was found everywhere in Mao’s China, even among rows of vegetables on farms.

Timetable project

Timetable project: First Banks, by Vince Leo. First Bank Visual Arts Program, 1989. printed ink on coated paper

This book documents a protest by patrons and other concerned citizens regarding a Wisconsin bank’s exhibition of Warhol’s Maog prints in 1987. It also includes a timeline noting important events in the history of China and in the arts, including Warhol’s career.

Mao Wallpaper

Andy Warhol
Mao Wallpaper, 1974, reprint 2015
Screen print on wallpaper
The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh

Warhol’s Mao Wallpaper was first exhibited in 1974 at the Musée Galliera, Paris, with paintings of Mao hung directly upon it. Equating both art and politics with décor, this move cleverly commented on the circulation of Mao’s image in China and the United States. As one of the most widely disseminated images worldwide at the time, and of essential cultural and political significance in China, in this context Mao’s portrait also referred to the American cult of the celebrity. Ironically, the portrait of the communist leader who focused on eradicating consumerism in his own country became available to purchase by the capitalist West’s elite.


Warhol’s Skull paintings of the mid-1970s have often been seen as memento mori, or symbols of death and vanity. Memento mori, from Latin, translates as “Remember that you are mortal” or “Remember you will die.” The skull paintings are rich with references to death as well as birth. One could read the cast shadow of the skull as the shape of a fetus head and the pastel colors as references to springtime, the season of rebirth.

Gallery 401

Return to painting

In 1965, following the opening of his Flowers exhibition at Sonnabend Gallery, Paris, Warhol announced his retirement from painting in order to devote himself to filmmaking. While this proved to be a facetious statement, the period of the late 1960s was certainly marked by a shift of emphasis in his practice away from traditional media.

In 1972 Warhol came out of “retirement” with a major exhibition of works depicting Chairman Mao which signaled an energetic return to the discipline of painting. From this moment until his death in 1987, Warhol created more paintings than at any other point in his career. He experimented with a diverse range of stylistic approaches, reprised themes from his 1960s output, and engaged with new currents in the art world. While he engaged predominantly with figuration throughout his career, he also made important contributions to the development of abstraction in the 1970s and 80s.

Oxidation Painting

The Oxidation paintings were created by urinating onto a canvas primed with a metallic paint. The resulting chemical reaction (oxidation) created blooms of color, which changed in concentration. Warhol’s unique process of abstract painting playfully echoes Jackson Pollock’s dynamic “drip” paintings and perhaps also recalls the medieval alchemists who transmuted base materials into gold (urine into art). Warhol and his “collaborators” (friends and studio assistants) experimented with both pattern and coloration in these paintings. Variation in the maker’s fluid and food intake affected the oxidation impact in the paint, for instance, Warhol was particularly thrilled by the striking colorations cased by his studio assistant Ronnie Cutrone, who was taking vitamin B supplements.

Map of China

Ai Weiwei
Map of China, 2004
Tieli wood
Private collection, New York

This map of China is constructed with wood pieces salvaged from the ruins of temples from the Qing dynasty (1644–1911). It underlines the fact that contemporary China is often constructed from elements of its past. The interlocking configuration of the work’s different pieces, finely crafted by specialist carpenters, also refers to the country’s cultural and ethnic diversity and the fact that while China remains a unified entity, it is comprised of a multitude of individuals. Ai’s Map of China prompts us to reflect on the natural mosaic of national identity and on the place of the individual within it.

Film and Video gallery

Warhol created artworks that explored the boundaries of the moving image from the time he purchased his first movie camera in 1963 until the end of his life in 1987. He began with 16mm film, continued with video, and eventually produced series for cable television. The touch screens in the gallery allow you to view over 100 full-length selections from Warhol’s film, video, and television work.

“I just use whatever happens around me for my material…. The world fascinates me. It’s so nice, whatever it is. I approve of what everybody does…. I accept things. I’m just watching, observing the world.”
—Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei film and video

Andy Warhol and Ai Weiwei have both engaged experimental filmmaking to explore the scale, rhythm and urban life of New York and Beijing, respectively. Rather than capturing fleeting experiences, both artists have documented these cities through long-form films which serve as time capsules of urban life in periods of rapid transition.

Warhol’s silent black-and-white film Empire, 1964, focuses on the Empire State Building, a sign of twentieth- century modernity and one of New York City’s most iconic buildings. Empire draws upon experimental techniques aligned with underground cinema of the 1960s. Beginning at sunset and lasting eight hours, the film is composed of a single take which merges space and time, its extreme duration echoing the physical height and prominence of the building in New York’s urban imagination. In the city that never sleeps, the building seems a beacon distanced from the bustling streets below.

Ai Weiwei explores the urban fabric of Beijing – a twenty-first century metropolis – in hundreds of hours of documentary footage recorded during a period of rapid urban transformation in the lead up to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Lacking stylistic flair or explicit judgement, his ‘Ring Road’ videos capture urban experience and transformation in real time, recording the uneasy balance between heritage and development, and changing patterns of human activity and displacement.

From 1964 to 1966, Andy Warhol produced hundreds of Screen Tests. These short, black-and-white films are portrait studies of many individuals, from artists and models to anonymous visitors to his studio. Warhol wrote in POPism: The Warhol Sixties (1980): ‘I only wanted to find great people and let them be themselves and I’d film them for a certain length of time and that would be the movie’. Understood in this way, his Screen Tests could be viewed as precursors to social media and reality TV.

In 2005 Ai Weiwei began blogging and remains an incessant producer of social content. Between 2005 and 2009 Ai posted hundreds of images on a daily basis to his blog, along with social commentary on contemporary China, criticism of government policy, thoughts on art and architecture and reflections on his life as an artist. He wrote passionately about the Sichuan earthquake that killed thousands of schoolchildren in 2008, and reminisced about his time in the New York art scene. Owing to his openness and at times provocative stance in the face of government censorship, on 28 May 2009 Chinese authorities shut down Ai’s blog, leading him to embrace Instagram and Twitter as communication platforms. The transcribed text of his blog, now published in book form, remains a valuable document of Ai’s commitment to social justice and freedom of expression.

Floor 3

Gallery 301


This mounted African lion is one example of Warhol’s interest in taxidermy. His friend John Reinhold acquired it in South Africa in the early ’80s and had it shipped to Warhol’s home. Warhol and Reinhold were close friends known to exchange gifts. In Warhol’s diaries, he notes that Reinhold gave him a platinum jeweler’s loupe and 500 carats of real diamond dust.

Not only was the gift appropriate for Warhol’s affinity for taxidermied animals, but it also matched his astrological birth sign, the Leo. The museum also owns a mounted Great Dane, which was referred to by Warhol and his friends as “Cecil” and kept near the entrance of his office on 860 Broadway. Other mounted specimens owned by Warhol include a peacock, penguin, and moose head. He also used taxidermies of a fox and cat as source materials for some of his artworks.

Archives Study Center

Andy Warhol’s passion for collecting is legendary. The vast assortment of items he assembled is one of the most extensive archives for an artist of the 20th century. It also represents one of the last great collections of the pre-digital era.

Estimated at 500,000 objects, the archives collection is the definitive source of research material and information on Andy Warhol and his work. It is also a primary resource for the study of Pop art, the evolution of 20th-century art, and the profound changes in popular culture that occurred during Warhol’s life.

The Archives Study Center is devoted to preserving and making available this comprehensive variety of historical materials for scholarly study, and for support of the museum’s programming.

The archives contain a full range of the materials Warhol used in the creation of his art, along with his business records, correspondence, photographs, scrapbooks filled with clippings about his life, personal music library, audiotapes and transcripts, issues of Interview magazine and other published materials, clothing, furniture, and collectibles, including works by other artists. His Time Capsules are central to the archives collection.

Champion Ador Tipp Topp (Cecil)

Research by Kerrin Winter-Churchill
This mounted Great Dane, called Cecil by Warhol and his associates, was once a champion show dog. Born in Germany in 1921, his originally name was Ador Tipp Topp. Owned by Charles Ludwig, a top breeder, Cecil was sold to Gerdus H. Wynkoop of Long Island who entered the dog in several shows earning him the title of Champion by 1924, and Best of Breed at the Westminster Kennel Club.

After his death in 1930, Cecil’s remains were sent to Yale University in Connecticut, where they were mounted and displayed with 11 other breeds in what was known colloquially as “the dog hall of fame” at the Peabody Museum. However, by 1945, the canine display was removed to storage and forgotten.

In 1964 Scott Elliot, a Yale drama student, went to the Museum to find birds for a new play. He found the birds and also bought all 12 dog mounts for $10 each. When Elliot had to move a few months later, many of the mounts were left with a friend who put them in rented storage, which went unpaid and the contents were dispersed.

Warhol came across the display in an antique shop on 3rd Avenue several years later. He was told that the dog had belonged to film director Cecil B. DeMille. Warhol bought the story and the Great Dane for $300. Cecil found his final home at Andy’s office, where he was kept until Andy’s death in 1987.

Cecil’s current appearance differs from his championship form. His coat was originally black and white but exposure to sunlight has faded it to brown. Over the years, it sustained damage to the ears; they were repaired in April 1994 in anticipation of the opening of the Warhol Museum, to reflect the style of current breeds.

Time Capsules

Warhol’s massive conceptual artwork, the Time Capsules are monolithic, modular, and free-form: 610 flimsy containers hide varied contents, placed by Warhol, which are largely archival in nature. Conceived while moving his studio in 1974, the Time Capsules became a daily ritual; the accumulation occupied the artist until his death in 1987.

Each Time Capsule (or TC) holds on average more than 500 objects: letters, photographs, publications, recordings, clothing, food, medicine, toys, antiques, ticket stubs, and small works of art by Warhol and other artists.

This diversity is Warhol’s best expression of his statement, “Pop Art is liking things.” Filled with things that he loved, the TCs may be Warhol’s truest self-portrait, or an autobiography. Warhol obsessively documented everything around him—from celebrities to consumer products to everyday ephemera. The TCs are a key aspect of his practice and, alongside his paintings, photography, filmmaking, video, and contributions to numerous other media, they reveal how much his art was rooted in the world he experienced.

The TCs echo artworks by Warhol’s contemporaries (such as Arman’s Poubelles and Accumulations, and Daniel Spoerri’s Tableaux Pièges) and precursors (such as Marcel Duchamp’s White Box). They also resonate in the work of many artists today (such as Song Dong’s Waste Not).

Not long after beginning the TCs, Warhol discussed exhibiting them on a huge shelving unit displaying every box. He envisioned each would be for sale at an identical price, but none could be opened for inspection before purchase. He believed that the public would buy boxes of his life, in a sense, just as they clamored for the effects of Hollywood stars. That exhibition never happened.

All of the Time Capsules are in the collection of the museum; the contents of one are displayed around you.


“I need about an hour to glue myself together, but when I make an appointment I always forget about the phone call interruptions so I always show up a little late, and a little unglued.”
Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again)

Throughout his life, Warhol was fixated on his physical failings: his pockmarked skin from childhood illness, premature baldness as a young man, and then massive scars from gunshot wounds. In order to mask his appearance, Warhol cultivated different looks through attire, cosmetics, and cosmetic injections.

Items in the vitrines are evidence of Warhol’s ever- increasing health consciousness and his hopes for personal improvement.

All items are part of The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Founding Collection, Contribution The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

Skin Care

“When I did my self-portrait, I left all the pimples out because you always should. Pimples are a temporary condition and they don’t have anything to do with what you really look like.”
Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again)

Warhol had a lifelong obsession with beauty regimes and skin care. He regularly visited Janet Sartin Spa for facial treatments. Both he and his friend, author Truman Capote, saw famed dermatologist Dr. Norman Orentreich, the first president of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery and creator of Clinique skin care. Included in this vitrine is a business card for Warhol’s other dermatologist and friend, Dr. Karen Burke, whom Warhol saw for collagen injections to prevent wrinkles.


This vitrine displays a small selection of vitamin bottles that contained Warhol’s regimen of supplements to improve condition of his hair and skin. By the late 80s, Warhol claimed he was having trouble sleeping due to the sheer amount of vitamins he was taking.

Also on view are appointment cards for Dr. Li, one of Warhol’s chiropractors who also counseled him on nutrition. Later in his life, Warhol became interested in “crystal healing,” though he worried about the potential conflict with his faith.

Attempted Assassination

On June 3, 1968, Warhol was shot by Valerie Solanas. One .32 caliber bullet tore through his spleen, stomach, liver, esophagus, and lungs. The artist was so badly injured that he was pronounced dead on arrival at Columbus Hospital. Miraculously, Dr. Giuseppe Rossi, with the help of a surgical team and 12 units of blood, was able to bring him back to life. Warhol wore a corset under his clothes for the rest of his life to support his stomach and abdomen. The corsets in this vitrine were hand-dyed by Warhol’s good friend and collaborator Brigid Berlin. There is also an overdue bill inscribed by Rossi from Columbus hospital relating to this incident.

Hair Care and Eyes

Suffering from male-patterned baldness, Warhol began wearing wigs after graduating from college and moving to New York. In the mid-1960s, he supposedly spray-painted his wig silver. Later that decade, he adopted a style that became his permanent look; it was brown in back with shades of blonde on the front and sides, all handmade by the same wig maker, Paul Bochicchio. Warhol’s hairpieces, glasses, and leather jackets, all served to enhance the artist’s celebrity while simultaneously deflecting attention from the man.

Working on commercial illustration in the early 1950’s put even more stress on Warhol’s already poor eyesight. He was prescribed thick-lensed glasses that may have increased his physical insecurities.

General Medical

Warhol’s health was by all accounts average, especially considering his medical history and yet, he maintained constant vigilance over his body. Details of his obsession are found within the Andy Warhol Diaries, with numerous references to the artist’s anxieties over bad skin, weight gain, weight loss, blood pressure, and AIDS.

General medical

In documenting the most insignificant details of his existence, Warhol created a complete diary of his life, warts and all. Dr. Denton Cox was Warhol’s general practitioner and was the one to diagnosed his acutely infected gallbladder in 1987. While the surgery to remove Warhol’s gallbladder was successful, he passed away from complications by the next morning at 6:31 a.m. on February 22, 1987.

Floor 2

Gallery 201

Andy Warhol: My Perfect Body

Andy Warhol: My Perfect Body presents the body as a central theme in Andy Warhol’s practice. While best known for his fascination with celebrity, consumerism, and beauty, Warhol repeatedly gravitated towards imagery related to physical imperfections as well as the procedures and products used to mend or conceal them. In drawings, photographs, films, prints, and paintings, Warhol provocatively explored the body’s assets and flaws, fragility and strength, as well as his own insecurities and torments. From early work to paintings made just one year before his death, this exhibition examines how Warhol’s personal history, sexuality, and physical appearance shaped his depiction of the body across artistic media.

For someone so closely aligned with traditional notions of beauty, Warhol noticeably cast his subjects under a thin veil of pain, anxiety, and suffering. Idealized specimens of the male physique, cropped and damaged body parts, and awkward depictions of youth each present a complicated and sometimes painful picture of the human form. Warhol’s intimate and difficult relationship to this subject is apparent as he repeatedly examined bodily shortcomings and simultaneously imagined moments of transformation in his art.

Warhol once defined Pop as “taking the outside and putting it on the inside or taking the inside and putting it on the outside;” a useful metaphor for thinking of the body as a site for internal and external dialogue, the division between public and private, and one that situates Warhol’s very definition of Pop as directly tied to the body.

Warhol’s Beauty Problems

This selection of photographs presents an unexpected view of Andy Warhol changing throughout his life, at times youthful, vulnerable, and aged. Warhol’s appearance was a constant source of frustration to the artist. He suffered illness at a young age and bore traces of these early years throughout his life, including pigment issues that caused discoloring of his skin. In the Philosophy of Andy Warhol, he recalled that neighborhood kids called him “Spot” and his family nicknamed him “Andy the Red-nosed Warhola.” As an adult, Warhol complained of his persistent acne, and the pallor of his skin.

Throughout his adult life, Warhol modified his appearance and concealed his physical insecurities with wigs, creams, and medical bandages. He attempted to correct the roundness of his nose with elective plastic surgery in the early 1950s. In his youth, Warhol’s body was rarely if ever on display. Even beachside, Warhol was fully clothed. It wasn’t until his later years that there was a sense of ease in his demeanor and perhaps, at last, a comfort in his own skin.

The Advent of Pop

In 1960, Warhol purchased his first townhouse at 1342 Lexington Avenue and began work on his seminal Pop paintings. Works from 1961 to early 1962, many of which are displayed here, share a set of common technical and stylistic characteristics as well as thematic connections to the body. In these paintings, Warhol projected source images onto canvas then traced and painted the enlargements by hand. During this earliest period of painting, the body is absolutely central and accompanied by a fixation on the promise of physical transformation. Warhol shows us the perfect nose in Before and After, pain relief in Dr. Scholl’s Corns, and the illusion of a full head of hair in Wigs. These works predate the widely celebrated Campbell’s Soup paintings and mark the advent of Warhol’s career as a fine artist.

Before and After, 4

Andy Warhol
Before and After, 4, 1962
Acrylic and graphite pencil on linen
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Purchase, with funds from Charles Simon

Warhol created four versions of this painting all based on an ad from the National Enquirer. Similar to the Nosepicker painting from Warhol’s college years, Before and After points to a form of self-representation. In 1956, Warhol sought plastic surgery to fix the shape of his nose, but was never satisfied with the results—he never achieved the perfect profile that he idealized in celebrity headshots as a child. This painting marks one of his first serial experiments, with Warhol reproducing the same source image in four distinctly different ways. On view here are two iterations, ranging from halftone dots reminiscent of mechanical printing processes and Roy Lichtenstein’s comic book paintings, to the clean line that Warhol would soon become known for with works like Coca Cola.


Andy Warhol
Wigs, 1961
Casein and wax crayon on cotton canvas
The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Founding Collection, Contribution Dia Center for the Arts

This painting was based on a black-and-white ad from the National Enquirer. Warhol’s fascination with hair and wigs was due in no small part to his anxieties about his hair loss at a young age. Warhol began wearing wigs in the mid-1950s to cover his early balding. The archives of the museum contain no fewer than thirty custom-made wigs that Warhol would tweeze and crop to suit his taste. While Warhol’s first purchases were inexpensive toupees, by the 1960s he had traded up for striking silver wigs and, eventually, handmade Italian hairpieces fashioned from human hair.


Even in his early student works, Warhol presented the body as a site of torment and personal affliction. While Warhol produced some traditional illustrations of Pittsburgh cultural landmarks during this formative period, he also created a series of unusual and provocative studies of the human body. These included a woman breastfeeding a small animal, bodiless heads vomiting or sticking out their tongues, and a figure study of a female form covered in spots reminiscent of a medical illustration. Known for his fascination with beauty and perfection, Warhol was extremely aware of his own physical flaws and ailments. The surreal, contorted bodies of his student work reveal an early fascination with the tormented and an imperfect physique.

Nosepicker I: Why Pick on Me (originally titled The Lord Gave Me My Face but I Can Pick My Own Nose)

Andy Warhol
Nosepicker I: Why Pick on Me (originally titled The Lord Gave Me My Face but I Can Pick My Own Nose), 1948
Tempera and ink on masonite
Paul Warhola Family

Warhol painted Nosepicker when he was a senior in college. His offbeat and sometimes irreverent artwork did not always meet his professors’ academic standards, but Warhol was persistent. He entered a painting titled The Broad Gave Me My Face, but I Can Pick My Own Nose in the 1949 juried Associated Artists show. The work was rejected despite apparently being defended by artist/juror George Grosz, whose own work was often satirical in nature. Undeterred by the rejection, Warhol exhibited the same piece with a new title, Don’t Pick on Me, for a student exhibition in June of that year. “Don’t Pick on Me” is a fitting phrase to describe Warhol’s childhood in Pittsburgh, but it also resonates with his first decade in New York, where he lived from 1949 on and struggled to fit in with art world social circles.


In the mid-1950s Warhol started compiling a series of drawings titled “Boy Portraits,” which were exhibited in 1956 at the Bodley Gallery, a contemporary gallery in the wealthy Upper East Side neighborhood of Manhattan. Warhol filled several sketchbooks with delicate line drawings of young men, paying attention to their feet, torsos, and genitalia. Warhol’s “Boy Portraits” have a particular tenderness and sensitivity and are depicted as sensual ideals of the male body. These sketches were intended to form The Boy Book, and were based on Jean Cocteau’s homoerotic illustrations for Jean Genet’s novel, Querelle de Brest, 1947. Jean Genet was known for his provocative portrayal of homosexuality, and Querelle de Brest is considered by some to be his most important novel—a modern retelling of the old myth of sin, guilt, sacrifice, and resurrection.

The unpublished Boy Book drawings represent a revealing moment in Warhol’s early career—one, which he had hoped, would establish his name as a serious artist. However, the drawings were not well received by the conservative art world in a sociopolitical environment where homosexuality was deemed a felony. Warhol would eventually return to the male nude physique in his Sex Parts and Torso paintings in 1977, but this time he removed the faces of his subjects and cropped tightly around body parts, producing a more severe and distant effect.


As everyday media coverage of current events expanded widely in the 1960s, film, television, and photography documenting trauma and disaster became available as source material. Many artists adopted conceptual or symbolic approaches to address the potential for destruction in the world. Warhol focused his attention on suicides, car accidents and the electric chair—modes of destruction that are directly connected to the annihilation of the human body. This series of works became known as the Death and Disaster paintings.

In the Disaster series, Warhol maximized the effect of shock through a sophisticated play with optics. By obscuring or enhancing specific details of his source material and overlapping the registration of frames, Warhol animated both the subject and the surface of the painting. The repetition creates a flickering, cinematic effect that reads more like a fictional film-still than a real-life car accident. In these works, life becomes a spectacle and death is depicted with such drama that the authenticity of the image is put into question.


Andy Warhol
Hospital, 1963
Silkscreen ink and pencil on linen
The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Founding Collection, Contribution Dia Center for the Arts

Hospital is an unusual, singular painting, which Warhol based on a 1962 feature in Life magazine that depicted scenes from Thornton Wilder’s play Our Town. Since Wilder’s play was presented without backdrops or props, the article was matched with photographs of real-life scenes from a small North Dakota town. In these works, Warhol brings the attention to the candor of the image as well as its intimacy and distance. Small details like the wrinkle lines around the doctor’s eyes that express his joy in the original source photograph are absent in the final painting. By contrast, the cross around the nun’s neck, rendered in black-and-white, is forced into greater focus. The heavily inked screen also obstructs any semblance of the mother’s body, which further confuses the scene and makes it unclear whether this moment of birth is one of mourning or celebration.

Ambulance Disaster

Andy Warhol
Ambulance Disaster, 1963–1964
Silkscreen ink on linen
The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Founding Collection, Contribution Dia Center for the Arts

Whereas in the earlier Disaster paintings repetition was used to flood the surface of the canvas, in later works from 1963 specific details of source images were enlarged or omitted through cropping. Rather than focusing on the wreckage of the crash, in Ambulance Disaster the victims’ mangled bodies take center stage and bystanders are removed entirely. The central figure, with arms outstretched, carries a dramatic resonance reminiscent of the extended arms found in crucifixion imagery throughout western art. Two ambulances colliding while attempting to usher victims to safety represent a surreal tragedy of mythic proportions. The caption of the source image states:

Chicago: Two ambulances, both returning from the same fatal accident, collided here early 1/9 injuring four of the ambulance men. Carol Czechowicz, 19, who was fatally injured in the accident in which two of her girlfriends were seriously injured, was partly thrown from the ambulance carrying her to the hospital. She was pronounced dead on arrival.

1947 White

Andy Warhol
1947 White, 1963
Silkscreen ink and graphite on linen
The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Founding Collection, Contribution Dia Center for the Arts

In late 1962 and early 1963, Warhol created paintings of suicides using four different source photographs. This painting was based on a photograph by Robert C. Wiles of a young model who, distraught over a failed romance, jumped from the Empire State Building’s 86th floor observation deck and landed on a parked limousine. Although initially difficult to discern, closer examination of the image reveals a woman, clutching her pearls, stockings wrapped around her feet, and her lifeless body cradled in the dent made by her fall. So perfectly and unnaturally does her body rest, without signs of injury or duress, that her death appears staged and, one could argue, cinematic.

White Burning Car III

Andy Warhol
White Burning Car III, 1963
Silkscreen ink on linen
The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Founding Collection, Contribution Dia Center for the Arts

In this work Warhol used a photograph taken by John Whitehead that was published in Newsweek on June 3, 1963. The accompanying caption of the source image states:

End of the Chase: Pursued by a state trooper investigating a hit-and–run accident, commercial fisherman Richard J. Hubbard, 24, sped down a Seattle street at more than 60 mph, overturned, and hit a utility pole. The impact hurled him from the car, impaling him on a climbing spike. He died 35 minutes later in a hospital.

The repetition here intensifies and as well as numbs the effects of the fatal accident. Small details in this painting, like the seeming indifference of the passerby in the background, are highlighted and distorted when enlarged and repeated five times over.


The 1970s and 80s were a prolific time for Warhol, but many of the works he produced during these decades were slow to receive critical acclaim and popular appreciation. During this late period, he painted the Rorschachs, Oxidations, and Camouflages—works that today are perceived to be some of the most complex of his career.

Most of these abstract works contain no discernible imagery, a significant departure for the artist. Warhol had distinguished himself from the post-war Abstract Expressionists by focusing on Pop imagery drawn from everyday life and commercial sources. In the late 1970s, Warhol began the Oxidations, and invited friends and acquaintances to urinate onto canvases covered in metallic copper paint, which caused a chemical reaction, oxidation, and resulted in an organic pattern of iridescent yellows and greens.

In the Rorschachs, Warhol created symmetrical “ink blot” paintings modeled on the well-known psychiatric tool, in which patients would seek recognizable images and associations in abstract patterns. Warhol also deconstructed human forms during this period—fragmented body parts in the Torsos and Sex Parts paintings are tightly cropped, echoing the style of commercial advertising and hinting at a cycle of desire and consumption. From carnal splatters of urine to oblique references to the subliminal erotic, these works resurrect the body’s central place within the tradition of abstraction and mark making.

Philip’s Skull (Cat Scan)

Andy Warhol
Philip’s Skull (Cat Scan), ca. 1985
Acrylic, silkscreen ink, and urine on canvas
The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Founding Collection, Contribution The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

Commissioned by Philip Niarchos, the wealthy collector and son of a Greek shipping magnate, this work presents an unusual mix of portraiture and abstraction. Rather than pose for a photograph, Niarchos provided Warhol with a copy of a medical CAT scan of his cranium and brain, which became the source material for this image. This work references the tradition of memento mori painting, serving as a visual reminder of mortality. At the same time, it represents a union of the body and abstraction.

Warhol completed this painting in 1985, eight years after starting his Oxidation series, which used human urine to produce colorful chemical reactions on canvas. There is some evidence that Warhol created a “piss painting” as early as 1961, investigating the potential of bodily fluids as instruments for mark making. Warhol mined the relationship between the body and abstraction over decades and across media, spanning different periods of his artistic practice.


Andy Warhol
Sleep, 1963
16mm film transferred to digital file
Black and white, silent, 5 hours 21 minutes at 16 frames per second, with John Giorno
The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Founding Collection, Contribution The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

One of Warhol’s earliest films, the nearly six-hour-long Sleep (1963) is a blissful appreciation of the sight of his lover, the poet John Giorno, slumbering during a summer night in New York. The title is deceptively simple. Rather than an uninterrupted static view of Giorno sleeping, the film is in fact a complex stream of edited footage, made up of 22 separate close-ups spliced together into a montage of variously repeating sequences. Recalling the process of being filmed Giorno remembers that, “Andy would shoot for about three hours, until 5 a.m. when the sun rose, all by himself… The shoot lasted a month. We stopped when he had taken thousands of rolls of film. Andy would look at them on the hand-cranked movie viewer, and say ‘Oh, they’re so beautiful.’”


Images of a body transformed through training appeared in Warhol’s work at a moment when he underwent his own transition from a commercial artist to a fine artist. The slight appearance of his youth was traded in for the projected strength and confidence of a mature artist. By the 1980s, Warhol practiced a near daily exercise regime; stationary bikes and weight sets can be seen throughout his studio in photographs of the period. He incorporated workouts with his trainer in episodes of Andy Warhol’s TV and bodybuilder imagery in his paintings. The provocations of his youth and the desired “before and after” transformations of his early career were replaced by therapeutic and strength-building practices.

Not only did Warhol collect ephemera of bodybuilders, but the imagery of strength training became central to his work. Source material from bodybuilding advertisements appears in paintings in the early 1960s from ads for “broad arms and strong shoulders” and “man power” and again in the 1980s with “be a somebody with a body” and a “$5 complete barbell outfit.” With some of these source images, Warhol developed paintings that juxtaposed ideal muscular bodies—which at this moment were in vogue with the rise of celebrity bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger—and imagery from The Last Supper, Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic fifteenth-century mural depicting the final meal of Christ with his disciples.


Late in life, Warhol revisited his early Pop imagery with a prominent series of drawings based on medical illustrations. By the 1980s, perhaps inspired by his relationship with the young painter Jean-Michel Basquiat, Warhol took up hand-painting again. As if to return to his start, Warhol used cosmetic surgery illustrations and anatomical drawings as the source material for an entire new body of work. The portfolio of drawings echoes imagery that he first used in 1961 of wigs, corsets, and plastic surgery. As Warhol’s preoccupation with health and physical appearance resurfaced as explicit themes in his work, he was also becoming increasingly aware of aging, illness, and decay within and around him. Scars covered Warhol’s torso following the multiple surgeries needed after he was shot in 1968, and the very same “rupture easers” that he painted in 1961 became a part of his daily uniform, providing structure and comfort to a body badly damaged by bullets and sutures.

Warhol’s renewed interest in the body also corresponded with the early days of the public health crisis of HIV/AIDS, which ravaged New York City’s downtown arts scene and gay community. A lack of knowledge about how the devastating disease was transmitted resulted in paranoia and uncertainty that cut across lines of gender and sexuality.

Male Genital Diagram

Andy Warhol
Male Genital Diagram, 1962
Casein and graphite on linen
The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Founding Collection, Contribution The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

Warhol created this painting while simultaneously completing his Dance Diagram series from 1961. Selections from the archives illustrate his process of appropriating found imagery to generate his early Pop paintings. Here, a cross section of the male genitals and reproductive organs from an unidentified source was taped to the back cover of The Lindy Made Easy (with Charleston), one of two books that inspired the Dance Diagram paintings. This painting stands alone in the work from this period. It is the only physiological diagram from the early 1960s. It may be seen as Warhol’s reaction to the decidedly macho temperament of many of his art world contemporaries. The piece also makes clear reference to his sexuality as a gay man.


Commissioned by art dealer Alexander Iolas in 1984, Warhol created a series of paintings and prints to be installed in the Palazzo delle Stelline in Milan, located opposite the Dominican convent which houses Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper. This commission spawned one of Warhol’s largest bodies of work. Comprising some one hundred works of art based on da Vinci’s masterpiece, the series includes immense canvases measuring from twenty-five to thirty-seven feet in width.

In a work that juxtaposes Christ with a bodybuilder from a gym ad—The Last Supper (Be a Somebody with a Body [Detail]), 1985–86—Warhol brings the corporeal and the divine together. The return to the monochrome black and white palette of his early career casts the body again in austere terms. Another variation, The Last Supper, 1986, is meant to be viewed in black light. Christ’s outstretched hand, which offers his disciples the body and blood of the Eucharist, is cropped from view and attention is focused on his downward glance and quiet, somber eyes. The long, horizontal shape of the canvas stretches out like a scroll to be read, with the words “Be a Somebody with a Body” heightening the absence of Christ’s body, which since the Renaissance has been represented as an ideal form. By aligning a bodybuilder with the figure of Christ, Warhol suggests the ultimate union of physical and spiritual perfection, while pointing to an underlying tangle of desire and shame.