Anna McNay

Interview with Norman Rosenthal re Andy Warhol: Works from the Hall Collection at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford


Interview with Norman Rosenthal

Andy Warhol: Works from the Hall Collection
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
4 February – 15 May 2016

With a figure as well known as Andy
Warhol (1928-87), whose works are so instantly recognisable, it might seem an
impossible task to put on an exhibition and keep it fresh and interesting for
the public. The current exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum, however, which
features more than 100 previously unseen works, spanning the whole of Warhol’s
career, contains many surprises. Curated by Sir Norman Rosenthal, from the
collection of Andrew and Christine Hall, it – in the words of the Ashmolean’s
director, Xa Sturgis – more than “puts paid to the idea of Warhol as a spent
force in the 70s and 80s”.

In stark contrast to the stunning,
high-reaching wall in the central gallery, hung with Warhol’s more recognisable
commissioned screen prints of celebrities (including Joseph Beuys, Paul Anka
and Maria Shriver), the final room focuses on his last year of life, showing
only black-and-white prints, many with religious and existential themes.
Another section features drawings, proving that Warhol was a talented
draughtsman: “He had a natural line, which was every bit as beautiful as
Matisse,” says Rosenthal, for whom these late drawings were a “revelation”.
Highlights of the first room include a group of artists’ portraits and a series
of prints of Watson Powell, a successful but unknown businessman, who came to
be known as “the American Man”. Alongside this, a small side room acts as a
screening room, showing looped excerpts from Empire (1964) and Sleep (1963)
alongside Eat (1963), Kiss (1963) and Screen Tests (1964-65). Every corner of
space has been used and the exhibition feels representative without being

“Andy took the world as it was and,
in his own way, described it with amazing accuracy,” says Rosenthal, who talks
about trying “to tell a story through the pack of cards that is the [Hall]
collection”. Studio International spoke to him at the opening of the

Watch the interview here