Nevadans Get an Up-Close Look at Andy Warhol

| September 28, 2013 | 0 Comments

A painting of Muhammad Ali is featured in the Andy Warhol exhibit at the Nevada Museum of Art.

Written by Laney Olson

Andy Warhol famously said, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.”

The late American artist’s words are exemplified in Andy Warhol: Athletes, a portrait collection currently showing at the Nevada Museum of Art.

“[The collection] happened at time when athletes were becoming celebrities,” says JoAnne Northrup, director of contemporary art initiatives at the museum.

As its title implies, Athletes consists of 10 paintings featuring sports stars from the 1970s and 80s, including: Muhammad Ali, Jack Nicklaus, O.J. Simpson, and others. While Warhol knew little of sports, his friend and art collector Richard Weisman was an avid sports fan and commissioned Warhol to paint these famed athletes.

“The world of art and the world of sports were not connected,” Weisman says. “[But they] were the two most popular leisure activities at the time.”

Coming from a family of art collectors, Weisman knew Warhol mutually through artists – but it wasn’t until Weisman moved to New York City in the 1970s that he formed a friendship with him.

“We used to joke that Andy would go to the opening of an envelope,” Weisman says.

Warhol painted a piece of his friend and owner of the collection, Richard Weisman.

In 1977, Weisman suggested the idea of painting athletes to Warhol and set out to pick athletes who were “recognizable to people who weren’t interested in sports.” Warhol then took photographs of the athletes with his Polaroid Big Shot camera and had the images turned into screens. Assistants would pre-paint a canvas, and Warhol would add paint to emphasize facial features. The final layer was the silkscreens.

“Jack Nicklaus and Chris Evert were suspicious about the whole thing,” Weisman says. “When he was painting Jack, Andy said, ‘Do you think you could move your stick to the left?’ But Jack and Chris were the only two who called and asked for additional copies.”

After completing the collection in 1978, Warhol became an avid ice hockey fan. “He hung out with hockey players,” says Weisman. “It was weird. He was a frail guy and hockey players are big guys that hung out at saloons – he was one of the guys.”

Now, the 40×40 inch paintings are on display to the public in Reno until January 5, 2014.

Northrup was pleasantly surprised in late August when the collection was offered to her for free. “The only catch was that we had to put it up this fall,” Northrup said. “We had to move other exhibits and do everything we could to make it happen.”

Weisman sends the collections to smaller cities and towns, “If you’re in Reno and interested in art, you have to go to San Francisco or Los Angeles. Smaller areas are not less important areas.”

The transition between exhibits is extensive, says Rachel Milon, director of communications for the museum– the rooms are completely cleaned and repainted just for the occasion. The paintings are then placed on specialty carpets and placed on the wall with specialty gloves.

“The process usually takes a week, this one happened overnight,” Milon says. The paintings arrived September 26, they were placed September 27, and the exhibit opened September 28.

Northrup says she sees the benefit in rushing to get the exhibit up.

“People who don’t know contemporary art know Warhol and they know the athletes,” Northrup says. “It will make a nice fall show.”

A painting of Weisman done by Warhol is also displayed in the exhibit. Weisman will be visiting the exhibit Dec. 13 to tell stories of Warhol and the collection. Details about the exhibit are here.


Category: Arts & Culture

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