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Where's Warhol? A Time Travelling Adventure With a Pop Culture Icon

18/04/2016 20:02
Catherine Ingram

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Opening of the Frida Kahlo Retrospective at the Galería de Arte Contemporáneo

Where's Wally is a classic that's fun and tempting to play with. With Where's Warhol, we were lucky: the formula seemed made for him. Warhol's name begins with W, providing that essential alliteration in the title. Then there's Warhol's branded look of jeans, stripy jumper and dark glasses, which is uncannily similar to Wally's wardrobe. And like Wally, Warhol loved crowds. The ingredients were there to drop Warhol in hide-and-seek tableaus.

What really excited me though is how the formula of crowded tableaus could be reworked to explore historical art scenes. So while it is about finding Warhol, it is also a walk-through these vibrant art scenes, a chance to meet the avant-garde, the artists, their muses, the celebrities and the patrons.

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Studio 54

Andy Warhol had a nose for the fashionable, happening scene. In three of the scenes we find Andy in worlds he was part of, or visited. The illustration of Studio 54 shows Warhol amongst his celeb posse in New York's infamous disco in the 1970's. Then we have Warhol lost in Washington Square, where Jean-Michel Basquiat slept rough and sold his graffiti T shirts and postcards in late seventies; and where, after linking up with Basquiat, Warhol photographed Basquiat in front of the fountain at Washington Square.

Researching the images was lots of fun. For the tableau showing Dalí's Surrealist fancy dress party, I managed to source Dalí's ridiculously extravagant shopping list for the event that included live animals, which the local zoo obligingly provided, although not all his demands were met. On the night Dalí's wife Gala happily fed the baby lion, Dalí sulked as the zoo hadn't sent the giraffe he'd asked for. Because the background stories were vivid, we decided to add short texts on each scene at the back of the book so that the reader could explore them if they wanted to.

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Dalí's "A Surrealist Night In An Enchanted Forest"

The challenge was always to represent the distinct flavor of each avant-garde set as accurately as possible. Having worked with Andrew Rae before, I knew that his crisp, vibrant illustration would bring these artistic milieus to life. In Where's Warhol he varies his palette to suit the very different atmospheres: sumptuous, bright colours capture Frida Kahlo's world while steely blues and greys fit the glamour of Bob Fraser's London art scene.

By bringing the groups back together, one gets a sense of the collective energy of scenes. It's particularly exciting when the milieu has been forgotten, or its vitality has been obscured in passage of time. This is true of Bauhaus art school which was a hive of wildly divergent activity. Designed by the architect and director of Bauhaus Walter Gropius, the art school that once pioneered modern design today stands derelict, a monument to modernism. Illustration was a way of infusing colour back into the Bauhaus. In a dramatic cut-away, we see into the experimental workshops, where students were taught by design legends like Herbert Bayer and Marianne Brandt and where design classics like Breuer's tubular chair were part of the art school furniture. The illustration celebrates the Dada spirit that pervaded the art school social life. We find Oskar Schlemmer practicing his abstract dances on the roof, the Bauhaus band playing out their avant-garde Dixieland and students and masters dressed in bizarre costumes ready one for the extraordinary Bauhaus parties.

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Garden of Artistic Delights

My favourite scene is probably the Garden of Artistic Delights. It's the odd one out because it doesn't represent a real artistic world; you could say it's the imaginary, biggest and best art party. Hieronymus Bosch's extraordinary Garden of Earthly Delights is opened to the entire art world; well, we crammed in as many as we could! What I find interesting is how comfortably the past sits with the modern - a Renaissance cherub flies beside Yves Klein who makes his leap into the void, and Bosch's giant size berries have an uncanny Pop tone and could easily be served at the same table as Warhol's oversized soup cans.

Where's Warhol by Catherine Ingram and Andrew Rae is published by Laurence King, £9.95, available at: http://www.laurenceking.com/en/where-s-warhol/

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