I was in Prague recently and I completely fell in love with Andy Warhol’s “Love is a Pink Cake”. This shifted my view on him completely, as previously, I have to admit, that I found his work a little…samy. The first thing that you think of with Warhol, is after all, a can of Campbell’s soup, probably swiftly followed by colourised images of Marilyn Monroe.
I found it really interesting that even though Warhol was born in Pittsburg, the Czech Republic have embraced Warhol (or Wahola) as their own due to his family heritage, and as such I think they shed a new light on his work that I had not fully appreciated before, as they showed many more elements than I usually see in exhibitions that display his work. They also included letters that he had sent to his family which gave some incredible insight as to why the consumer, advertising and celebrity world held such interest for him.
Warhol is firmly in the pop art camp, and is attributed to the phrase “15 minutes of fame” after he quipped “In the future, everyone will be world famous for 15 minutes”. We are definitely seeing that now with programmes such as Love Island or the many other reality shows that have popped up. Sadly these catapult people who aren’t ready into the limelight, sometimes with some devastating consequences, but it does look like Warhol was right – we could all be famous for 15 minutes.
Warhol is pretty easy to find out about, a quick google search will tell you all you ever wanted to know about this quirky personality, so I wont give an overview of his life, rather I will concentrate on the flowers that were very famously rejected and why.
Back in 1982, Tacoma received a letter from The Factory (Andy Warhol’s art studio). It read:-
Andy Warhol would like to see the Tacoma Dome as a large flower. This flower would be a unique flower from the imagination, a flower’s flower”.
This letter was a direct response to the city of Tacoma looking for artist to come up with ideas to decorate the dome, which was at the time under construction, but would later be a multi use arena. Warhol’s proposal made it to the top five, only to be beaten by Stephen Antonakos “Neons for Tacoma Dome”. Honestly, I could only find one mockup of what this would have looked like, and I don’t see why it won at the time – but what do I know?
I can only assume that this would have looked more spectacular all lit up, but sadly that was never to be either as after winning the top spot, this entry was de-selected later down the line as worries about impacting the integrity of the structure came about.
Andy had taken his flower overture project quite seriously as he created over 900 flower images; some had been taken from a photo which he was later sued by Patricia Caulfield for copyright infringement of her photo of a hibiscus flower – this was settled out of court. The images were silk screen prints and paintings, and years before in 1964, he had used Caulfield’s image to create one of the last paintings he did before moving to the silk screen technique which is he better known for. This had been created from silk screen ink and acrylic paint on canvas.
This obsession with flowers, ultimately led him to the design for the dome, combining different types of flowers to create the final images which were submitted (around 100 were created for the Tacoma project).
His flower work shows a much softer side to pop art, there are no hard lines and over emphasised colours within these pictures as we see in his portrait work, rather the flowers are simple and details more picked out to display their petals and stamens. The beauty is in the simplicity of this work.
There is a certain charm to this work that feels familiar yet strange all at the same time, which is what I think makes this so appealing to viewers and why it would have been a perfect cover for the dome.
Obviously the people of Tacoma feel the same, as in 2015 the project was revisited, and the potential for the dome to be covered with one of Warhol’s flowers. The project was green lighted by the City council back in 2015, and they have started to look for the $5.1 million that it would take to renovate the dome and adorn it with one of the flowers which had previously been submitted.
Mock ups of the dome with the icon on it have been created, and I have seen articles that state that the City council were going to try using a plastic wrap of one of the flowers for 6 months before committing $2 million for the paint job.
This endeavour is still to happen, but exhibitions of Warhol’s flower work can be seen far and wide. There is a retrospective of Warhol’s work running at the Tate Modern in London which is the first there for over 20 years, starting in March 2020 and running until September, where you are sure to see some of his stunning flower work.
“I always notice flowers” – Warhol
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