From November 6, 2014, to March 15, 2015, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) is presenting the exhibition Warhol Mania: A Brand-new Look at His Advertising Posters and Magazine Illustrations, featuring fifty posters and a selection of magazine illustrations created by the artist throughout his career. Coinciding with the publication of two catalogues on the artist’s work, the exhibition includes a collection of posters presented at the Musée d’art contemporain de Baie-Saint-Paul in summer 2014 as well as numerous illustrations.

As a leader of the American Pop Art movement, Andy Warhol saw his works, together with his image, given wide media coverage. But aside from this coverage, what about Warhol’s own advertising genius, his gift for creating posters to sell products or promote causes and events? Following the Museum’s 2008 presentation of Warhol Live: Music and Dance in Andy Warhol’s Work, which featured album covers, Montreal collector and art historian Paul Maréchal reveals another aspect of the artist’s graphic design work, in collaboration with Diane Charbonneau, Curator of Decorative Arts and Contemporary Design.

“Our friend, the Montreal collector and researcher Paul Maréchal, is presenting the third opus in his remarkably exhaustive research into Warhol’s considerable yet little-known body of graphic work, which is being presented at the MMFA for the very first time. We’ve seen the album covers, and now we have the posters and illustrations—and it’s not over yet! Thanks to his first-hand research into more than one thousand original compositions, this ingenious artist’s work, which blurs the boundaries between art and design, continues to amaze us. Just as it is now impossible to appreciate the work of Lautrec without considering his posters, Warhol’s graphic work is now seen as a powerful expression of his creativity,” said Nathalie Bondil, the MMFA’s Director and Chief Curator.

“Contrary to what many have written, Warhol did not just illustrate magazines between 1949 and 1963, but continued to do so until the end of his career in 1987, as the exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts effectively illustrates,” added Mr. Marechal.

Warhol: talented illustrator and poster artist

It was not until in the mid-1960s, when Warhol attracted public attention for his Campbell’s Soup Cans series, that companies and cultural, humanitarian and political organizations sought out his talents as a poster artist to promote their products, causes and events. The media attention garnered by Warhol’s work and personality meant immediate visibility for the advertisers’ messages, which capitalized on the artist’s fame. Warhol’s posters were the perfect embodiment of his vision. In this, he harked back to the great tradition of Toulouse-Lautrec and Jules Chéret, masters of poster art in their day, in Paris, where posters first appeared in the late-nineteenth century to advertise cabaret shows, plays or circus performances, as well as consumer products.

Original works commissioned between 1964 and 1987, the posters presented in the exhibition are advertisements for consumer products (Absolut vodka, Levi's jeans, Charles Jourdan footwear, etc.), causes (the German Green Party’s 1980 election campaign, the UNICEF campaign to end the famine in Ethiopia in 1985, among others) and events (such as the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics). These works are rarely rendered in more than three colours.

It is also important to note that Warhol illustrated more than 400 magazine issues, including more than fifty covers. Although they represent an important part of his career, few of the original drawings have survived. Indeed, more than 90 per cent of the illustrations were never returned to the artist. They were simply destroyed, the usual practice in a magazine’s graphic arts department. The magazine was considered to be the original; the drawing was just one stage in its creation.

New research conducted entirely by Paul Maréchal

A few years ago, art historian Paul Maréchal became interested in collecting Warhol’s posters, which led him to assemble a collection of fifty posters and close to one thousand illustrations from more than 400 magazines.

“Warhol viewed commissions for advertising posters as a challenge,” he says.

Two catalogues raisonnés, the result of his in-depth research, accompany this exhibition. Presented in chronological order, along with explanations and comparative illustrations, these works highlight the artist’s talent and his remarkable contribution to the art of poster design.

Warhol’s works illustrate his great understanding of the importance of graphic design in communications. The volumes Andy Warhol: The Complete Commissioned Posters 1964-1987 and Andy Warhol: The Complete Commissioned Magazine Work, published by Prestel, are the first catalogues raisonnés of the posters and magazine illustrations that the artist executed on commission. Thanks to Mr. Maréchal’s thoroughly researched writing, Warhol’s outstanding contribution to graphic design is revealed in these richly illustrated reference books.

Andy Warhol, Pop Art’s emblematic ambassador

A Pop Art icon, Warhol was an illustrator, painter, printmaker, avant-garde filmmaker and music producer. This versatile artist was born in 1928 in Pittsburgh and died in New York in 1987. He completed a bachelor’s degree in commercial art at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, and then worked in New York as a commercial artist for Glamour magazine, Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue. He received the Art Directors Club medal for his newspaper advertisements in 1952 and was honoured with other awards during the course of the decade. His first exhibition was presented in New York in 1954 and he rose to fame with his series of paintings for Campbell’s Soup in 1962.

His silkscreens of film stars achieved worldwide fame, as did his reproductions of consumer products. Warhol’s world depicts our consumer society. From 1962 until his death in 1987, he continued to take an innovative approach to depicting aspects of industrial and commercial society. His favourite images were various product brands and celebrity faces (Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley).

The Museum extends its warm thanks to the sponsors of this exhibition, RBC Foundation, as well as the Young Philanthropists Circle of the MMFA and Absolut. The Museum also wishes to thank its exhibition partners: Air Canada, Bell, La Presse and The Gazette.