Caviar20 is pleased to present the exhibition “Andy Warhol: The First Decade, New York City 1952-1962”.
This exhibition, the first of its kind in Canada, juxtaposes the drawings and prints Warhol created for his commercial clients (such as various clothing manufacturers and retailers) with his own independent work, mostly romantic or erotic drawings based on his friends and lovers.
Over the course of a decade, Warhol balanced two professional practices that were received with dramatically different results. As a commercial illustrator, hired to create advertising or promotional material, Warhol quickly established a burgeoning reputation. His whimsical designs were used by numerous companies which placed them in newspapers, shop windows, and promotional material that targeted both girls and women. In the spring of 1952, Warhol was first awarded an annual prize from the Art Directors Club of New York, a distinction he would receive numerous times over the next decade. Important American commissions followed from companies as diverse as CBS and Girl Guides in addition to the many fashion brands.
As for his art practice, Warhol had his first solo show in June 1952 featuring drawings based on the writings of Truman Capote. It was a commercial and critical flop. It would sadly set the tone for the rest of the decade; exhibitions at cafes or bookstores with little to no sales and harsh, dismissive (and often homophobic) reviews.
Warhol continued to be a prolific illustrator despite the rejection, creating images regardless of their public reception. During this period, Warhol maintained his tenacious spirit, creating books of lithographs, often hand-colored based on his drawings. Although sales were few and far between, his fanciful publications were given as gifts to friends, clients, and art directors of major magazines.
While Warhol’s signature Pop Art is super iconic, ultra blue-chip, and ubiquitous, this first decade of creation remains a relatively unknown, almost undiscovered, but significant chapter of his oeuvre. During the 1950s, Warhol unabashedly emerged in the uptown gay scene both socially and professionally. Both his output as an artist and his exhibitions were inspired by gay men and were arguably catering to them (with cross-over aspirations). Warhol sketched many men in his milieu, both friends and lovers, enjoying the ease of the newly released ball-point pen. This profound and intimate period precedes Warhol’s art world superstardom when he became notoriously evasive about his persona and sexuality.
Since Warhol’s death, there have been a small handful of exhibitions and publications that have explored Warhol’s early work, both commercial and intimate portraits. In 2020, Taschen released the impressive “Andy Warhol: Love, Sex and Desire, Drawings 1950-1962”. Inspired by this important contribution to Warhol appreciation and scholarship, Caviar20 will exhibit over a dozen early drawings, all acquired from the artist’s Estate/Foundation, a number of which were published in the Taschen book.