Last night I went to the opening of the Tate Modern’s latest exhibit – Pop Life: Art in a Material World.
The exhibit has already been generating some controversy as the gallery was forced to remove a nude picture of Brooke Shields, taken when she was 10, and subsequently they have pull the accompanying exhibit catalogue . And based on the reactions from some of the other patrons their last night, I doubt this will be the last of the controversy this show will generate.
It seems, for the most part, that the critics have hated the show, with the Independent describing it as “deeply superficial show, full of glitz and gloss” and although this is true, I enjoyed the way in which the curators unabashedly explored themes of art and commerce together. In fact I think the show was fabulous over the top exploration of the commodity fetish with in pop culture – from products, to individuals.
The exhibit uses Warhol as starting point to then demonstrate the way in which artists have developed their public personas or “brand” in a room aptly named ‘The Worst of Andy Warhol’. The curators acknowledge the legacy of pop art through a generation of artists who embraced the cult of celebrity and the highly commercial appropriation of the art market. It is a focus on the over the top obsession with the commodity and the selling out of the artist.
Demonstrated throughout the exhibit from the reproduction of Keith Haring’s Pop Shop, selling his own branded products directly within the exhibit; to Takashi Murakami’s mass produced editions, via his multinational corporation, Kaikaikiki; to the multimillion dollar work of Damien Hirst; and Jeff Koon’s attempts to blur boundaries between private and public through his sculptures and paintings of his sexual union with porn star and latter-day politician Illona Staller – this is a provocative exhibit that emphasises a culture of excess and consumption, focusing on the commodity of art, sex, and self.