Andy Warhol: Raid the Icebox

Featured in the Collecting Lessons
Gallery View, Installation of Windsor Chairs, Installation of shoes, from Raid the icebox with Andy Warhol, Exhibition at the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, April 23 - June 30, 1970

While Andy Warhol created the Time Capsules as both a personal and professional collection, he was also interested in institutional collecting. In 1970 Andy Warhol revolutionized art exhibition practices with Raid the Icebox. The title of the show was a pun referring to many museums’ cold storage areas, filled with objects that the public does not see. Drawing from the collection of the Rhode Island School of Art and Design, Warhol, as artist/curator, created a thoroughly unconventional set of displays. Paintings were placed on the floor, leaning against walls and stacked two and three deep, while shoes were exhibited en masse in a large cabinet to be viewed and touched as if in one’s own closet. This radical display broke institutional rules about the display and value of certain objects over others in the museum environment.

In many natural history museums, exhibitions about native or foreign cultures give attention to all kinds of objects, from the mundane and utilitarian items to the sacred and art objects. Conversely, most western art museums, much like the Cabinets of Curiosities from the 16th Century, only show the highest quality of art or the most beautiful examples of "man's creations". Andy Warhol was interested in elevating the lowly objects within the storage of RISD’s art museum to higher status. A good example of this reversal is Warhol’s installation of lesser quality Windsor chairs, which were used by the museum as spare parts to mend the better chairs in their collection. Under Warhol’s curatorial direction, these were hung up on the walls as if they were master paintings. In the same way he pulled out the museum’s extensive costume collection, displaying the fashions of culture along with the art.

Comprehension Questions:

  1. What institutional rules was Andy Warhol breaking?
  2. Why did Warhol break these rules?
  3. What idea was he interested in showing the audiences of Raid the Icebox?