LONDON.- A groundbreaking exhibition Pop Art Portraits - the first to explore the role and significance of portraiture within one of the world's most popular and influential art movements - opened at the National Portrait Gallery. Conceived as a visual dialogue between American and British Pop Art, this exhibition brings together 52 key works by 28 Pop artists working on both sides of the Atlantic in the 1950s and 1960s. These include major portraits by Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns and Roy Lichtenstein, alongside those of Peter Blake, Richard Hamilton, David Hockney and Patrick Caulfield.
The exhibition examines these artists' shared engagement with depicting the famous, using images taken from advertising, pop music, the cinema, magazines and newspapers. It also shows how Pop Art shattered the conventions of portraiture, creating a new genre of fantasy portraits using comic books, magazines and other images drawn from popular culture.
The exhibition explores Pop Art's complex and enormously creative engagement with portraiture and is divided into six sections: Precursors of Pop; Portraits and the Question of Style; Fantasy; Film; Marilyn; and Innocence and Experience. The Marilyn section is one of the highlights of the exhibition, bringing together works by British and American Pop artists in the context of their shared obsession with images of Marilyn Monroe. Presented as a secular chapel to one of the late 20th Century's goddesses, the exhibition reunites several important works originally shown in the celebrated tribute exhibition, Homage to Marilyn Monroe, held at Sydney Janis Gallery, New York, in 1967. This section focuses on one of the principal themes of the show: the way Pop portraits transformed familiar images into works of art of great technical virtuosity, lasting originality, and enduring fascination.
Other highlights include: an important early plaster cast portrait by Jasper Johns; Robert Rauschenberg's major 'Combine' painting, Trophy V, dedicated to his fellow artist and friend, Jasper Johns; a spotlight on Paolozzi's seminal collages of the early 1950s; Ray Johnson's proto-Pop portraits of James Dean, Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe; major self portraits by Andy Warhol; Jim Dine's celebrated Green Suit; Lichtenstein's iconic In the Car; a sensational room of 'pin-up' works by Allen Jones, Tom Wesselman, Mel Ramos, Peter Phillps and Peter Blake; Warhol's famous Marilyn screenprint series; screenings of Warhol's influential Screen Tests; Rauschenberg's major early screenprinted painting Express; as well as rarely seen portraits by Claes Oldenburg, James Rosenquist and Robert Indiana.
Pop Art Portraits is sponsored by Lehman Brothers.
Sandy Nairne, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, London, says: 'Pop Art Portraits creates an exciting opportunity to see an important art movement in a new light - the idea of the portrait is extended through the work of these artists'.
Jeremy Isaacs, Chief Executive Officer for Lehman Brothers, Europe and Asia, says: 'Innovation is central to our business at Lehman Brothers and goes hand in hand with inspiration. That's why we are delighted to be supporting the Pop Art Portraits exhibition. It demonstrates our belief in the arts as a force to inspire and challenge our thinking and to enrich all our lives. In particular we applaud and thank Sandy Nairne and Paul Moorhouse for their vision in putting together this major exhibition'.
The exhibition is curated by Paul Moorhouse, the National Portrait Gallery's 20th Century Curator. His previous exhibitions include the major retrospectives: Leon Kossoff, Michael Andrews, Bridget Riley, Anthony Caro, John Hoyland and John Latham.
PUBLICATION - The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated book priced £35 hardback, by curator Paul Moorhouse. This authoritative publication challenges the received wisdom that Pop is about objects, and makes the case for re-evaluating Pop as an art about people and portraits. The book includes an essay by Dominic Sandbrook, the author of two acclaimed books on Britain in the 1960s, Never Had It So Good and White Heat, which provides a fascinating perspective on the social and historical background. Published 10 October 2007.
TOUR - Pop Art Portraits will tour to the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart (23 February - 1/8 June 2008).