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Shopping the Leftovers: Warhol’s Collecting Strategies in Raid the Icebox I

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Abstract:

Andy Warhol’s little-known commission in 1969 to ‘curate’ an exhibition from basement storage at the Museum of Art at the Rhode Island School of Design opens a window on the artist’s complex attitudes toward class. While the many manifestations of Warhol’s queer aesthetic have been illuminated in recent scholarship, little attention has been paid to how his sensibility was also shaped by his working-class roots in the slavic enclave of Depression-era Pittsburgh. While Warhol created a uniquely ‘cool‘ persona in the New York art world, he never repudiated his background and its values. His writings, from Popism and The Philosophy to the Diaries, are full of sharp insights on American class politics and aspirations. One can see in Warhol’s signature elevation of icons of mass consumption to the status of art and in his treatment of high subjects as mass products a radical proletarianizing will. Raid the Icebox I shows Warhol’s levelling aesthetic in its full glory as he makes a series of curatorial selections that directly assault the principles of connoisseurship that undergirded professional museum practice. Twenty years before postmodern artists would view the museum as a context for critical ‘reinstallations’, Warhol’s Raid the Icebox– the only such intervention he ever made – profoundly disrupted museum decorum by exposing the usually well-concealed links between elite collecting and its low-class other – shopping.

Document Type: Original Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-8365.00264

Affiliations: Rhode Island School of Design

Publication date: April 1, 2001

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