Saudi Arabia’s first-ever exhibition of Andy Warhol, “FAME” opened last week at the desert venue Maraya as part of Arts AlUla’s robust new visual arts programming. The show is curated by the director of The Andy Warhol Museum, Patrick Moore, and features a selection of the artist’s most iconic works alongside lesser-known ephemera and archival photographs on loan from the museum. “FAME” marks a unique moment in the Saudi Arabian cultural scene, drawing connections to the icons of movies and television that are recognized across the globe.
As is suggested in the title, it was no secret that an aspect of Warhol’s work was a draw towards fame—a means of access to an elite world that was the polar opposite of his childhood in industrial Pittsburgh. Along with this distinctive narrative on notability and stardom, the exhibition also draws parallels to the present moment, relating the artist’s quest for fame and his constant capturing of and reflections on society to the unprecedented forms of content, documentation, and exposure brought about by our use of social media today.
“I think the idea of an artist who is so famous he’s a brand is not a bad place to start with contemporary art because he will be of interest to young artists here, he’ll be of interest and be known to a lot of young people,” said Moore.
Detailing this narrative is iconic imagery most commonly associated with Warhol, including his portraits of the likes of Muhammad Ali, Dolly Parton, Judy Garland, and Jackie Kennedy. These are hung on gallery walls in an installation featuring a bespoke section of wallpaper made from the artist’s own imagery. Another gallery showcases his black-and-white film screen tests featuring counterculture icons from the 1960s, from a series with names like Jane Holzer, Bob Dylan, Dennis Hopper, and Salvador Dalí. Also featured alongside his playful, reflecting floating balloons, Silver Clouds, are rarely-seen photographs (including old Hollywood publicity images and Polaroid portraits that were later used as reference images) and artifacts including a particular blonde wig.
On view through May 16, the show is accompanied by a roster of free talks, workshops, and masterclasses in design and screen printing, presenting opportunities for locals and visitors alike to uncover more about Warhol’s life and work.