A response to the claim of being “Fine Art. Redefined”
As an internationally acclaimed fine art institution, one would think The Andy Warhol Museum would be a trailblazer to the global community when it comes to art. According to the Warhol Museum, they are considered, “a vital forum in which diverse audiences of artists, scholars, and the general public are galvanized…” and would have us believe it is, “constantly redefining itself… using its unique collections and dynamic interactive programming…”. While each of us; natives to the ‘burgh, art enthusiasts, and even Warhol fans; support and patronize the museum; their recent ad campaign entitled, “Fine Art. Redefined.” gives us reason to pause.
If your internet search for the ad campaign promoting Yasumasa Morimura’s exhibition, Theater of the Self, turned up no controversial results we understand your confusion, we couldn’t find them either! However, throughout November the Andy Warhol Museum released a series of ads in the Pittsburgh City Paper with photographs of seemingly wealthy, upper class whites overlaid with narrative rap lyrics that are more than disturbing. What’s the problem, you ask?
Positioning upper crust white aristocrats behind faux rap lyrics is a gaffe, while on the road to “Redefining Fine Art”!
The Warhol’s ads may seek to cause commotion, however, this grave confliction of historically oppressed art forms with privileged fat cats is a misstep. The Andy Warhol Museum has done a marvelous job at utilizing stereotypical slang references i.e. May’Bach rollin’, Henny Sippin, and the explanation deserving, “sling vanilla”? (Note our sarcasm.) This culture jacking of sorts is a reckless disregard for how Hip-Hop culture could and should be viewed in its entirety! These ads are a great example of how cultural appropriation fails to benefit society as a whole. It’s as if black face Halloween costumes, Manhattan braid bars, and twerking Miley weren’t enough institutionalized racism and stereotypical mockery! Poking fun at this cultural art form by celebrating the lifestyles depicted in these ads only further perpetuates race and class warfare. Plainly put, this ad series was a display of poor taste and judgment.
Morimura’s exhibition imposes his face into the images of iconic photos, paintings and other works of art in contrast to the Warhol’s aristocratic and inaccurate interpretation of Hip-Hop, which begs the question how do we fix this? Morimura referred to his work as a, “beautiful commotion” and although provocative these ads should be followed by art, discussion, and programming that actually address the very issues these ads exemplify. It will be impossible to arrive at that place until an omission of error is acknowledged by the Warhol Museum. By demonstrating the courage to address these issues head on it will be viewed as a clear invitation to the diverse audience they set out to serve. Remembering back to a time when the Warhol was respectfully inclusive of artist and events such as the Annual Graffiti Art and Hip-Hop Showcase leave us hopeful that your programming and marketing will soon reflect a sincere effort to embrace our art and culture in a dignified manner. That’s okay, we’ll wait…