Attempted Robbery Of Warhol Artwork At Memorial Art Gallery Under Investigation

  • February 02, 2021 10:47

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Andy Warhol by Jack Mitchell.

Police in Rochester, New York, confirmed an attempted robbery from an Andy Warhol exhibition at the Memorial Art Gallery (MAG) on Sunday, according to reports.

The museum released a statement: “The matter is still under investigation and we’re working on putting the pieces together to understand precisely what happened. The artwork in question was not damaged and is safe.”

Among many Warhol thefts, seven of the artist's iconic Campbell's Soup can prints were stolen from Missouri's Springfield Art Museum in 2016.

MAG's current Season of Warhol includes simultaneous exhibits featuring the artist's Cow Wallpaper, Silver Clouds, and Warhol TV, on view through March 28, 2021. (See the museum website for programming.) In addition, Andy Warhol Portfolios: A Life in Pop Works from the Bank of America Collection features selections from Warhol’s forty-year span of work in the art of photographic silkscreen printmaking. 

Jonathan Binstock, MAG’s Mary W. and Donald R. Clark Director, comments, “Warhol was timely, prescient, and timeless. Through his ceaseless attention to documenting the moment—by means of the camera that constantly hung around his neck, the tape recorder that he always had in his pocket, and his outrageous productivity—Warhol achieved an evergreen relevance.” Binstock continued, “Here we are in the era of Instagam, TikTok, and 'fake news,' and I cannot think of anyone one who would have felt more comfortable with these circumstances. After all, he predicted them.”


Warhol first exhibited his helium- and air-filled, pillow-shaped balloons called Silver Clouds at the Leo Castelli Gallery, New York City, in 1966. He had recently announced his retirement from painting in order to focus on filmmaking—he never did stop painting—and worked with Billy Klüver, an electrical engineer at Bell Labs, to create the floating metalized polyester-film forms. Warhol is often quoted as saying, “I thought that the way to finish off painting for me would be to have a painting that floats, so I invented the floating silver rectangles that you fill up with helium and let out of your windows.” In a token effort to declare the end of painting, Warhol created a pioneering interactive art installation that has engaged and delighted participants of all ages ever since.

In the Memorial Art Gallery exhibition "Andy Warhol Portfolios: A Life in Pop Works from the Bank of America Collection," Andy Warhol, Marilyn Monroe (Marilyn), 1967. From a portfolio of ten screenprints on paper, 3/250, Bank of America Collection.

For Warhol, television was a way to make anyone famous, and he often used informal real-time footage, a prescient version of today’s “reality TV,” to highlight both trivial and glamorous subjects. This exhibition in MAG’s Media Arts Watch gallery showcases three of Warhol’s TV series as well as some of his live TV appearances, video clips, and advertisements. More recent material drawn from YouTube explores how his tabloid television anticipated contemporary modes of mass media production. True to the original medium, and in honor of Warhol’s visionary obsession with popular culture, Warhol TV is presented via cathode-ray tube inside a living room-like space complete with a TV guide.

Warhol was also a pioneer of installation art. The same year that he created Silver Clouds, he produced Cow Wallpaper, which has since covered the walls of Warhol exhibitions across the world. Arrayed in vertical strands, Warhol’s pink cows recall strips of contemporary photo booth portraits, which typically came stacked in groups of four. The reference, now historical, also relates to motion-picture film and the film-strip format. Photography underpins all of Warhol’s art.

At MAG, the north wall of the Vanden Brul Pavilion showcases Warhol’s signature fluorescent pink cows on a bright yellow ground. This contribution to art history’s pastoral tradition provides an appropriately ironic context for the complete portfolio of the artist’s eerie Electric Chair prints of 1971, which will be hung on the wallpaper. Why juxtapose images in assorted colors of the Sing Sing Correctional Facility’s electric chair, which was the last to execute a person in New York State, with the garish Cow Wallpaper? Combining the banal with a most serious subject matter, in this case an image of death and capital punishment, bespeaks the essence of Warhol’s intellectual project. Beneath the colorful, appealing, fun surfaces of the artist’s whimsical imagery lies a darker and oftentimes more critical story of American culture.

Memorial Art Gallery at the University of Rochester, NY.

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