Andy Warhol exhibition set for Scottish Parliament

Angus Hogg, Eric Shiner and Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick with Warhol's portrait of Andrew Carnegie. Picture: Tom Fitzpatrick
Angus Hogg, Eric Shiner and Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick with Warhol's portrait of Andrew Carnegie. Picture: Tom Fitzpatrick
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HE IS one of the most influential artists of the 20th century and produced some of the most memorable images of its powerful political leaders.

Now the Scottish Parliament has scored a remarkable coup by securing an exhibition of Andy Warhol’s work that has been put together specially for a month-long run at Holyrood.

The American artist’s famous “Pop Art” portrayals of John F Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon, Vladimir Lenin, Mao Tse-tung and the Queen will feature in the free exhibition of more than 40 works, the vast majority of which have never been seen in Scotland before.

The exhibition is being offered on loan to Scotland for free by the Andy Warhol Museum in his native Pittsburgh under a deal struck with one of the trusts set up to handle the legacy of Scots-born philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, who made his fortune leading the expansion of America’s steel industry.

The parliament, which will be hosting the exhibition in one of its biggest committee rooms, is having to pay just £15,000 to help bring the works – which include paintings, sculptures, prints and correspondence – across the Atlantic.

The Holyrood exhibition will include Warhol’s famous series of screen prints about the assassination of JFK, which will be on display in the parliament in the autumn just weeks before the 50th anniversary of the shooting in Dallas, Texas.

Also expected to feature are some of his iconic “hammer and sickle” paintings, his famous “devilish” image of Richard Nixon on his campaign poster for Nixon’s rival George McGovern, and a portrait of Carnegie himself.

The latter piece is coming on loan to Scotland for the first time from the Carnegie Museum of Art, which the tycoon founded in 1895 and where Warhol himself benefited from free art classes as a child.

The artist also studied at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Institute of Technology, now known as the Carnegie Mellon University, graduating with a fine arts degree in pictorial design.

Carnegie’s legacy also helped pay for the creation of the Andy Warhol Museum, which holds the largest collection of Warhol work anywhere in the world.

The museum’s director, Eric Shiner, told Scotland on Sunday: “The really exciting thing about the project is that it’s the first time there has ever been an exhibition of Warhol work in a parliament or government building. We are pretty sure about that.

“Most buildings like that do not have the right temperature or humidity controls to allow exhibitions like this to be held. We’re also thrilled the exhibition is not only going to be on in a building like the Scottish Parliament, but also because there was a strong commitment to include works of art in it when it was built.”

The Warhol exhibition, which is expected to run from 4 October to 3 November, will coincide with a major celebration of Dunfermline-born Carnegie’s life and legacy around the world. Carnegie gave away much of his fortune to fund educational and cultural projects in the United States and Scotland.

The deal to bring the exhibition to Scotland was formally signed in Pittsburgh yesterday by Holyrood’s Presiding Officer, Tricia Marwick.

She said: “The exhibition, which will have the theme ‘pop, power and politics’, will actually never have been seen anywhere before as a whole as the work has been carefully selected for the parliament.

“It’s very exciting as we’ve never had anything on this scale before. The World Press Photo exhibition has been very popular in the past, but we expect the Warhol one will be a lot different.

“It’s a unique opportunity to view Warhol’s works as they explore the role of power and politics in modern life, within the home of debate in Scotland.

“Andy Warhol benefited personally from Andrew Carnegie’s legacy. It is, therefore, fitting that this exhibition will form part of a series of activities to mark his international legacy at Holyrood.

“As well as learning more about Warhol, visitors can learn about the life of Andrew Carnegie and how his philanthropy has inspired generations on both sides of the Atlantic.”

Angus Hogg, the chairman of the Carnegie UK Trust, said the trust had spent almost 18 months working on the deal to secure the exhibition.

He added: “The Andy Warhol Museum is not actually charging for the loan of these works, even though they are virtually priceless.

“A lot of work has obviously gone into the logistics of getting everything over here from Pittsburgh.

“It is costing about £50,000 altogether, which we are funding the bulk of, with the parliament meeting the cost of putting the exhibition on.”

It will be the first major Warhol exhibition to be held in Scotland since 2007.

The work will go on show just a few hundred yards from an exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci’s anatomical drawings at the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

Twitter: @brianjaffa