Andy Warhol wanted to democratize art.
He saw the stuffy, rarified world of museums and wanted to blow it up.
His explosives of choice ended up being the art icons we all know.
The Campbell’s Soup cans. The Marilyn Monroe series. The Mao Zedong series.
And art never would be the same again.
“He wanted to make it available for the public,” says Jordan Schnitzer, an Oregon art collector, businessman and philanthropist. “And he wanted to create this message that art is all around us, not just in museums.”
You now can see some of Warhol’s most famous prints here in Savannah at the Jepson Center for the Arts.
Schnitzer talks about the exhibit, “In Living Color: Andy Warhol and Contemporary Printmaking,” and his role in bringing it here in this hour-long podcast.
He explains how Warhol’s initial success – as a graphic artist – shaped his life’s work.
“He did ads for shoes, for washing machines, but a lot of fashion,” Schitzer says of the young artist. “And he became quite well known in New York.”
But he was frustrated because inside of him was a fine artist.
Warhol created his later icons to show how art can live in everyday objects.
And this new art can create a permanent legacy of its own.
“The way that Mao now is probably best remembered is through this image that Andy Warhol created of him,” he says.
In several ways, Schnitzer himself carries Warhol’s principles into our own time.
The Jepson Center exhibit is made possible by his Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation.
This organization has loaned works from his collection of more than 8,000 contemporary prints to 72 museums around the country.
With 92 exhibitions under its belt – and a special focus on underserved communities – the foundation truly has helped to democratize art.
“If we weren’t getting this art out, to have all this work in storage would be disgusting,” Schnitzer says. “If we didn’t have this program, there’d be no sense to having all of this. It would represent values that I wouldn’t really respect.”
Where did he develop this dual love for art and the desire to show it to as many eyes as possible?
It stems from being the only child of Harold and Arlene Schnitzer, who have a legacy of philanthropy and support for the arts in Oregon.
And so his talk ends up being a ringing argument for the importance of art in our society.
“To be an artist, you’ve got to have some burning message inside you, some theme that you want to get out,” Schnitzer says. “But on top of that, you’ve got to be able to do it in a way that is different and hasn’t been done.”
In other words, art is saying something!
It speaks from every artist to every viewer.
And that’s an important concept for distracted kids with their faces in their phones.
“They’re being told what to listen to, what to eat, where to go, where everybody is, what’s going on, instantly,” Schnitzer says. “Where’s a refuge for them?”
Hopefully, the Jepson Center.
Hopefully, some of the other works in the exhibit, too.
Besides the Warhol prints, there are also prints by Louise Bourgeois, Chuck Close and Keith Haring – all both responding to the Warhol works and speaking in their own right.
The exhibit will remain on display until May 17th.