Pop provocateur Andy Warhol was never a stranger to controversy. In 1964, as part of a series of commissions for the New York State Pavilion, Warhol was commissioned to work on an installation that would be displayed on the face of the pavilion, which was to serve as one of the main venues of the fair.
The theme of the festival was to explore peace through understanding and man’s place in the shrinking and changing world. As such, the fair was supposed to be fun for the whole family. So it came as a surprise when Andy Warhol enlarged mug shots of 13 most wanted criminals photographed by the New York Police Department in 1962. The work caused quite a stir and scandal in the city. A few days after the mural was installed, it was covered up with silver paint a few days before the fair opened to the public as per the decision of the organizers of the show.
Later on, that summer, after the fair had already ended, Warhol produced another set of the same work with the most wanted men as his subjects. He used the same silk screens that he had used for the original mural to form 20 separate smaller scale works that were only recently brought together in 2014 for the first time since Warhol created them.
Art lovers claim that the mural was painted over because 9 of the ten names included were criminals from New York. The governor at that time did not deem it fit to have the mural on the façade of the pavillon building because it was one of the tallest buildings in New York at that time. Additionally, having that kind of publicity would have destroyed the governor’s chances of being re-elected. According to others, a mural of that nature was inappropriate to have at a family-friendly fair.
At the time of his commissioning, Andy Warhol and some of the other artists that had been commissioned including John Chamberlain and James Rosenquist had been leading painters in the Pop Art movement or school; artists of this movement were more formally known as new realists.
The recent exhibition that took place in 2014 sought to concentrate on Warhol’s 13 most wanted men as its main subject addressing how it was created and its destruction. The exhibition also explored the mural’s impact on the art scene through its artistic combination of archival material and documentation.
Andy Warhol’s Thirteen Most Wanted Men installed on the exterior of the New York State Pavilion for the 1964 New York World’s Fair
13 Most Wanted Men: Andy Warhol and the 1964 World’s Fair, Installation view, 2014, Queens Museum, New York
Photo: Peter Dressel
Francesco Jodice – What We Want, Hong Kong, T47, 2006
Ever been to a place and felt that it is not quite satisfactory in terms of how it looks? Well, Francesco Jodice is recreating spaces into what they should be if we had control of them. For a long time, people’s lives were influenced by the buildings that existed but the trend is taking a turn. Not even urban planners, engineers or architects can dictate life upon humanity anymore, this is the message that is being communicated by the ‘What We Want’ series. The project is centered around photography and modification of imagery.
Marina Abramovic – The Lovers: The Great Wall Walk (still), 1988/2008, performed for 90 days along The Great Wall of China. 16mm film transferred to two-channel video
Artists Marina Abramovic and Ulay are known in many parts of the world as the lovers whose relationship ended at the Great Wall of China. Initially, when the couple planned the trip, they intended to get married at the center of the wall. However, it was years later when the couple finally acquired all the authorization required from the Chinese government and were able to raise funds for the projected. Sadly, by then, the couple’s 12-year relationship has crumbled and what started out as a marriage celebration turned into last goodbyes for the couple. The couple had planned to be the first people to walk the entirety of the Great Wall, however, they were beaten to the punch by a Chinese railway clerk.
Doug Wheeler – PSAD Synthetic Desert III, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Photo: David Heald
Over 40 years ago, a leading Light and Space artist called Doug Wheeler imagined an art project that resembled the tranquility you would experience if you travelled to an expansive desert such as the one in Arizona. For a long time, the idea only existed on paper due to the amount of resources it required to get going.
Keith Haring – Crack is Wack, 1986, handball court at 128th Street and 2nd Avenue, New York
Keith Haring came up with his celebrated Crack Is Wack mural in 1986, at a deserted handball court located along the Harlem River Drive. The images of his double-sided mural were taken by a photographer known as Juan Rivera. Of course, since the mural was created in 1986, the spot at Harlem River Drive has since been repainted and buffed after the original mural was vandalized.
Like many other street artists of the time, Haring chose a spot that had the largest potential for visibility. The wall was the perfect spot because it had the appearance of a large billboard; like some of the ones that you would typically see on a busy highway.
Alfredo Jaar – A Logo for America, 1987/2014, Times Square, New York, 1987
The Times Square in New York is characterized by an epic display of contemporary consumerism; it is flooded with tourists from all regions of the world and filled with numerous electric billboards displaying services and a range of products for sale. If you are going to install an art exhibition, and a successful one at that, there is no better location that offers as much visibility as the Times Square.
Barry McGee – Detail of mural on Houston and Bowery, New York, 2010
In August 2010 Barry McGee (aka Twist) and Josh Lazcano (aka Amaze) painted a mural on the iconic corner of Houston & Bowery in New York’s Lower East Side, covering the wall with hundreds of red tags, filling it up with the names and crews of different graffiti writers.