American born Andy Warhol grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and lived and worked in New York, USA. Exhibiting as a commercially trained artist in the 1950’s and 1960’s Warhol is known for being a founder of the Pop Art movement and best known for his famous silkscreen prints of Marilyn Monroe and other prominent celebrities of the mid-20th century.
Warhol’s multidisciplinary career encompassed art, film production, music production, sculpture, advertising and writing as well as the design and creation of graphics and fabrics for American manufacturers. Warhol was crediting with developing innovative silk-screen printing techniques and inspiring the art and craft of visual merchandising which is still practiced in retail businesses all over the world today. Warhol’s most popular works celebrate the wonder of the everyday through the repetition of commonly consumed products, such as the Campbell’s soup can artworks.
It is Warhol’s textiles which are the subject of the latest exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum at 82 Bermondsey Street, London, SE1 3XF which is open until Sunday 10th September. This wonderful collection of bright pieces reflect the optimism of post-war America and the society and times during which they were created.
Themes such as gardening, sewing, sailing, delicious food and desserts, nature and even housework tools are both colourful and joyful and represent what was actually happening in many households at the time. We are reminded that ‘art reflects life’ and that later in his career Warhol is known for deliberately highlighting individual personalities in his work, giving them his memorable signature or “fifteen minutes of fame”.
It is special to look closely at Andy Warhol’s inky sketched hand drawings that form the basis of the repeated screen-printed cottons and silks in the series of fabrics on display at the fashion and Textile Museum. The ‘all over’ printed patterns often border on the abstract and nostalgic and it is not surprising that they had such wide appeal with customers in the American market.
There is a splendid mixture of ‘on the roll’ fabrics and beautifully sewn garments, many of which are vintage dresses and patterns from the 1950’s and 1960’s that convey this exciting time in fashion brilliantly. The summer silk frocks that are showcased on the first floor of this voluminous building are stunning. The simple Warhol designs glow in beach ready hues and create lots of impact despite their often relatively mundane subjects.
Admission to the Fashion and Textile Museum is a reasonably priced £12 and concessions are available. A ‘drawing room’ is provided for visitors to chart and network and enjoy sketching and drawing their own versions of Warhol inspired couture. British fashion designer Zandra Rhodes owns this gem of a city museum. Rhodes and her team endeavour to promote fashion and textile artists and the industry as a whole and keep art and design accessible for creative residents of south London and beyond of all ages.
Warhol is quoted in his online biography ‘Monsters and Critics’ as having said “I’d rather buy a dress and put it up on the wall, than put a painting, wouldn’t you?”[
It is fantastic that this beautifully curated exhibition has been able to remember and pay tribute to Andy Warhol’s textiles and display them to such a high standard. Warhol was very successful in his lifetime and he continues to delight new generations with his original approach to art, textile design and illustration.
(1) ‘Andy Warhol’ biography, Monsters and Critics online, 8 September 2023 ‘Andy Warhol’ biography, Monsters and Critics
(2) ‘Andy Warhol’ Wikepedia, 8 September 2023 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andy_Warhol
(3) Fashion and Textile Museum, 8 September 2023 Fashion and Textile Museum