A Big Andy Warhol Show in Saudi Arabia

The famed US pop artist’s 70-piece exhibition is curated by Patrick Moore. (Supplied)

Andy Warhol’s exhibition of 70 works traveled to Saudi Arabia as part of The Arts AlUla Festival. The Andy Warhol show titled “Fame: Andy Warhol in AlUla” is organized by the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and is curated by Patrick Moore, the institution’s director.

The exhibition focuses on the many ways in which the pop artist portrayed celebrities, from Muhammad Ali to Dolly Parton, as well as Warhol prints, his famous “screen tests” and more.

Over the past few years, Saudi Arabia has hosted a number of art events designed to attract international artists and curators to the country. These events include the edition of the Desert X Biennale, which launched in 2020.

The Andy Warhol show, which takes place at Maraya, is running until May 16. The show features artist’s prints depicting Muhammad Ali, Dolly Parton, Elizabeth Taylor, and more.

Muhammad Ali, 1978, screen print on Strathmore Bristol paper. (Supplied)

Patrick Moore, the director of The Andy Warhol Museum and vice president of The Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, did wonder how to introduce a globally iconic artist to new viewers in a different culture. He has worked on other Warhol exhibitions, focusing on aspects of Warhol’s biography, his gay identity, his Catholic faith, and his youth in Pittsburgh as a child of immigrants. But the director of the Andy Warhol museum felt there was a better way to present Warhol in this context to a country with a very young population, many of whom may not be familiar with Warhol’s work.

So the curator of Andy Warhol’s show decided that the point of contact for the new, young audience would be Warhol’s enduring fascination with celebrities, starting with the classic Hollywood stars he idolized as a child in rough, industrial Pittsburgh.

Warhol usually painted his celebrity portraits, from Judy Garland and Marlon Brando to Muhammad Ali and Debbie Harry, in vibrant colors, and taken together, they could be seen as the forerunner of the Instagram feed. These Andy Warhol art projects were joined by Warhol’s iconic “screen tests” from The Factory in the 1960s.

Andy Warhol, Dolly Parton (1985). The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Founding Collection, Contribution The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. 1998.1.625 ©2023 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by DACS, London

A common feature of young people all over the world is the desire to be noticed and to fulfill their dreams. As a young man in Pittsburgh, Warhol looked at the “silver screen” of the cinema the way Saudi youth now look at smartphone screens.

Andy Warhol’s artworks are not all that different in design from the social media posts that now dominate youth culture.

The plan to organize the Andy Warhol show in Saudi Arabia was reinforced by the tacit support of other museum workers.

Warhol’s nephew, Donald Warhol, vice president of the Andy Warhol Foundation and spokesman for the Andy Warhol Museum, said he believes his uncle would take the opportunity to exhibit his art in Saudi Arabia and create a dialogue about fame and celebrity.


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