ARTSY: The Night In 1965 That Andy Warhol Started A Riot At Penn’s Institute Of Contemporary Art


WALTER HOPPS: That Philadelphia exhibition of Andy’s was one of the most bizarre mob scenes I’ve ever witnessed… It was the first survey of all his work… It was crazy. It was the first time I saw a young avant-garde artist have a show mobbed as if it were a movie premiere… all kinds of people clamoring to get at Andy as if he were a star. MORE

SAM GREEN: Andy was mobbed. We were pretty scared because we arrived late from drinks and thousands were jammed into the museum. It was a mob scene and they were all out for blood. Somehow, once inside we managed to get to an old iron staircase that led up to the ceiling… an architectural student was trying to break through the fake ceiling above us so we could get out through the library private stacks, over the roof, and down the fire escape and out where the police could protect us… That’s how we escaped. MORE

RELATED: In 1965, Andy Warhol had his first American museum exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania. The place was so mobbed by students, fans, and the press that all of the paintings had to be removed from the walls because there was fear that they would be damaged. The crowd grew so large and unruly that Warhol and his entourage (which included EDIE SEDGWICK, BABY JANE HOLZER, KENNY LANE, ISABEL EBERSTADT, TAYLOR MEAD and GERARD MALANGA) were forced to flee for fear of their lives. This exhibition, arguably one of the most important of Warhol’s career, marks a turning point in contemporary art,Warhol_ICA_Riot.jpg where the persona of the artist challenges the primacy of the works on display; by the time Warhol escaped, it was he whom the public wanted as much as the paintings he made. The implications of this simple gesture are profound and play out in various ways over the next half-century, giving rise to performance and media art, as well as to the notion of the artist as celebrity as exemplified by Jeff Koons in the art world, Lady Gaga in music, and everybody’s fifteen minutes of fame in reality television. We are all children of Warhol. MORE

RELATED: “That’s How We Escaped”: Reflections on Warhol illuminates the night on Penn’s campus that transformed an artist into a celebrity. A collaborative effort between University of Pennsylvania students in the Spiegel Contemporary Art Freshman Seminar and artist Alex Da Corte spotlights the night of October 8, 1965, the opening of Andy Warhol’s first solo museum show, held at ICA (then located in the Fisher Fine Arts Library). Through a marriage of conceptual and archival elements, the show presents an interpretation of what was arguably the turning point of Warhol’s career. It features 24 works, including photographs from the night itself, and an installation by Da Corte re-conceptualizing the staircase by which Warhol and his entourage escaped from the crowd, into the night, and on to superstardom. The 1965 exhibition was not only a crucial moment in Warhol’s career, it also marks a turning point in the history of contemporary art, being perhaps the first time the persona of the exhibiting artist challenged the primacy of the works on display. The repercussions of this moment play out in various ways over the next half-century, giving rise to performance and media art, the ascendance of artist-celebrities such as Jeff Koons and Lady Gaga, and everybody’s fifteen minutes of fame by way of reality television.  Among the works on view are the original Campbell’s Soup invitation, a Campbell’s Soup can signed by the artist, an S&H Green Stamps invitation, an S&H Green Stamps blouse, photographs of the installation, and photographs of the event.

“That’s How We Escaped”: Reflections on Warhol is on view in ICA’s Project Space April 21-August 7, 2011. Opening Reception: Thursday, April 21, 6-8PM Free and open to the public.

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