When drawing up a rough shortlist of artists of artists I would consider commissioning to do a monument to Andy Warhol the name that would jump to the top of the page would be Jeff Koons. Rob Pruitt’s chromed sculpture of Warhol commissioned by the Public Art Fund is a suitably ersatz Koonsish object to satisfy and even looks a lot like a scaled up version of the re-cast kitsch objects Koons did in the early years.
The sculpture’s temporary location outside the building where Warhol was shot in 1968 does raise some debate about the current use of monuments. Rather than the leather clad Warhol of ’68 Pruitt has chosen to depict the later suited and shopping bag carrying Warhol of the Interview magazine period, a more benign observer of the scene. Warhol’s home city of Pittsburgh succeeded in getting the main share of the money and has the Museum but this project makes an effort to reclaim Warhol as a founding father of the New York contemporary art scene that he endowed. Warhol moving to New York allowed him to create himself so Pruitt’s statue is genuinely positive compared to the statues of John Lennon that crop up around Liverpool reminding us that his creativity and talent were used as a means to escape the place.
Placing the figure on a plinth avoids the prat falls of creating a conversation piece with Warhol, a person who suffered social anxiety and often alienated close friends. Pruitt has opted for making use of his relatively early death to cast Warhol as a seer. The Bloomingdale’s shopping bag and the Kodak Instant camera make Warhol prescient in his own time – the absolute ascendancy of consumerism and dominance of transient celebrity. Overt product placement in a public sculpture is still novel enough to for this to be jarring but is probably a trend we are going to have to grow used to.
Commissioned by the Public Art Fund, New York.
The Andy Monument is on display at Union Square, 17th and Broadway New York from March – October 2 2011
Photos by James Ewing
Text by Piers Masterson