Andy Warhol: Fame and Misfortune

So what do Grace Kelly, Princess Diana, Jackie Kennedy and John Lennon all have in common?

For starters, there’s the fame, the success, the celebrity – and the tragedy.

And then there’s Andy Warhol, who not only obsessed over it all, but turned it into an art form too.

“Andy Warhol: Fame and Misfortune,” which opens February 1 at the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, will prove the point with 150 pieces selected from the late artist’s body of work at the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.  Among them are paintings, prints, sculptures, film, and drawings, spanning the decades from the early 1950s to 1986, a year before the artist died.

In addition, some of the source photography that the artist used for his silkscreen prints and paintings will be on display.  That includes photographs of Marilyn Monroe taken by George Korman in 1953, later used by Warhol for his “Marilyn” series, which he began in 1962 and returned to many times during that decade.

“From his childhood, he was obsessed with celebrity and fame,” says Rene Barilleaux, curator of the McCay exhibition.  “He became a part of it, but remained in awe of celebrities throughout his lifetime.”

Works included juxtapose icons of popular culture, legendary entertainers, art world luminaries and world leaders, with images of suicides, automobile accidents, skulls and an electric chair.

“Part of it’s focused on our culture of celebrity, of building up, but there’s a down side, a dark side of life here too,” he says.  “It’s going to be side by side, celebrating personalities within the same sweep as disaster paintings.”

Sometimes, the curator acknowledged, it’s difficult to read the artist’s intention versus the way his work evolved.  “He was famous for not saying anything about his work,” Barilleaux says.

But he managed to make a lasting statement.

For more on the exhibit, go to

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All images by Andy Warhol. ©2011 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York