Andy Warhol TIFF show explores artist's obsession with stars, fame

​You might say he was the original Hollywood-obsessed, selfie-loving, multimedia-sampling, collaborative content creator: a new exhibit debuting in Toronto is exploring Andy Warhol's life, artwork and fascination with celebrity culture.

Highlights include Warhol's own memorabilia plus his videos, screen prints, photos

Pop artist Andy Warhol, shown in 1976 in New York, was fascinated by celebrity and fame from his childhood until his death. (Richard Drew/Associated Press)

You might say he was the original Hollywood-obsessed, selfie-loving, multimedia-sampling, collaborative content creator: a new exhibit debuting in Toronto is exploring Andy Warhol's life, artwork and fascination with celebrity culture.

Andy Warhol: Stars of the Silver Screen, premiering at TIFF Bell Lightbox Friday, delves into the Pittsburgh-born pop art pioneer's life and artistic career.

A new TIFF exhibition opening in Toronto delves into the life and work of pop artist Andy Warhol 3:22

A collaboration between The Andy Warhol Museum and TIFF, the exhibit highlights Warhol's own personal collection of Hollywood ephemera and includes a variety of his artwork, from films, TV episodes and other video creations to photography, drawings, screen prints and a rare tapestry piece.

Born during the Depression, Andy Warhol's interest in stars began in childhood when he was a regular at the local cinemas in his Pittsburgh neighbourhood. His childhood movie star scrapbook, ca. 1938-1942, is included in the exhibit. (The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./courtesy of The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh)

The display digs right into "the depth of his obsession with celebrity culture and how that really affected all of his work throughout his entire life, from his childhood to 1987 when he died, in every medium he worked with," Laurel MacMillan, TIFF's director of exhibitions, told CBC News on Wednesday during a media preview.

"He became a superstar himself, so this obsession with celebrity was something incredible. To see that, in the depth of the collection coming from the Warhol museum, is amazing."

Classic Hollywood figures, like Grace Kelly, depicted in this 1984 work, remained lifelong inspirations. (The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./courtesy of The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh)

From his early days in Pittsburgh, according to Warhol Museum curator Geralyn Huxley, the iconic pop artist was fascinated with classic Hollywood screen idols.

Born in Pittsburgh into a poor immigrant family, Warhol grew up during the Depression but found solace at the three local cinemas in his neighbourhood, according to Huxley. 

Geralyn Huxley, curator of the Andy Warhol Museum, discusses how the pop artist developed his obsession for famous faces and what he'd think of social media if he were alive today 3:45

"He went every weekend with his brothers. I think that seeing the Hollywood stars, the costumes, the settings, the glamour, the happy life – I think that really motivated him."

Also, his family – devout Byzantine Catholics – attended a church that had an iconostasis: a large screen in front of the alter that typically features large, gilt paintings of religious figures,she added.

"He would go to church every Sunday and he would see these images of the saints with golden backgrounds, larger than life...I think a lot of that influenced him."

From the Factory, the artist describes what inspires his paintings, his new works in film, and what he likes to watch on TV. 10:48

Later, as his own celebrity grew, he turned his lens on others – redefining fame, including with his vast Screen Tests series of black and white videos. He saw the single-reel, less than three minute videos as "living portraits" of individuals, both famous and anonymous, who visited his studio, dubbed The Factory.

This image of Hollywood siren Elizabeth Taylor was the source for Andy Warhol's famed work Silver Liz. (The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./courtesy of The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh)

One interactive element of the TIFF exhibition offers a contemporary take on this notable video series: a modernized recreation of Warhol's beloved Bolex camera set up in the Lightbox atrium, will capture participating attendees in their own Screen Test video.

Visitors can also take a big step into Warhol's world at the exhibit, which features a recreation of The Factory in 1964, complete with era-authentic furnishings and decorations as well as screens showing original Screen Test videos of Warhol muse Edie Sedgwick and others.

TIFF is also offering a host of related programming, including:

  • A movie series highlighting top films starring two of Warhol's most famous celebrity muses: Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe.
  • Nothing Special: Andy Warhol's Star System, a series of films Warhol created during the heyday of the Factory, between 1963 and 1958.
  • Roundtable discussions and talks featuring Warhol Museum director Eric Shiner and exhibition curator Jon Davies
  • In Love with the Stars, a sidebar exhibition featuring fan artwork, rare Hollywood snapshots and red carpet and party images.
  • A sidebar exhibit of work by contemporary artists inspired by Warhol, his influences and his ideas.

Andy Warhol: Stars of the Silver Screen opens Friday at TIFF BELL Lightbox and runs until Jan. 24, 2016. 

This iconic Gene Korman publicity image of Hollywood sex symbol Marilyn Monroe for her film Niagara was the inspiration for Warhol's Marilyn series in 1953. (The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./courtesy of The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh)

With files from Jelena Adzic

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