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Chambers at Large visiting the Andy Warhol Exhibition at the Hugh Lane Art Gallery, Dublin, Ireland.

I will put my hands up and admit I like modern art, especially when it is innovative, shows artistic capability and has foresight. Andy Warhol’s work displays all three.

The Hugh Lane Art Gallery is just off of Parnell Square in Dublin and it’s been a while since I’ve been, but the building itself is worth a look.

The entrance fee to the exhibition is GREAT VALUE FOR MONEY. I spent almost three hours admiring Warhol’s work, taking a break for a lovely cup of tea and a delicious slice of carrot cake in the café. (A big thanks to the staff there.)

A ticket lasts all day and visitors can pop in and out which is a bonus and I will say please use the cloakroom to store your coat and bags leaving your hands free to take a few photos, sketch, or take time out to read the accompanying brochure, which is very well written and most informative.

My favourite piece of Warhol’s is Clouds – an installation which is simply silver pillow shaped balloons which float in the air when given a gentle push. It’s an interactive piece and I could have “played” there for an hour, enjoying the childish pursuit of keeping the “clouds” in the air. I first saw this piece in MOMA, New York twenty odd years ago and it hasn’t lost its charm.

It was great to see young and old, notepads in hand, emulating Warhol’s work. I can’t draw to save my life and I am always impressed by anyone who can sketch, paint or produce a work of art. I chatted to a couple of students who were studying art in school and they were quite taken with Warhol’s use of colour and varying use of medium.

I am not an aficionado of Warhol but I was most impressed by his depictions of American life. The repeated images of the electric chair were most disconcerting. When shown in pretty pastel pink, green and yellow, the killing machine appears almost benign; more like a barber’s chair. It is the dark colours which highlight the concept of death, a subject which recurs in Warhol’s work.

The repeated image of a gun evokes the fascination with this killing machine in America and the work Camouflage was most thought provoking. I sat for several minutes studying this work, realising that each picture is exactly the same except for the use of colour. The recognisable khaki of soldiers begins the piece, but then in red, white and blue a printed fabric could be used as a summer dress, although I wondered if there was a deeper meaning concerning war and violence within the piece.

Warhol’s self-portraits give an insight into the man, his wonderful craziness, his social and political interest, especially with regard to the media, a topic on which he excelled. He was most far-seeing in that respect.

The sixteen-year-old students didn’t necessarily recognise several personalities Warhol portrays. I give two girls a brief synopsis of Elizabeth Taylor’s life, which Warhol encapsulates in one work, highlighting one of her most iconic performances as Cleopatra, yet fading from view as her career waned.

I can’t sing the praises of this exhibition loud enough. It was a reminder of life in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, recalling Chairman Mao’s vision for China, the nuclear threat, President Nixon and the Watergate Scandal, and the growth of commercial materialism which pervades our lives today illustrated via the prints of Campbells’ Soup Cans and the installation of Brillo Pads.

There is so much of Warhol’s work to see and I must congratulate those involved in exhibiting his work. I am sure he would have been delighted and if you are living on the Emerald Isle (or not) get yourself to Dublin and see this exhibition which runs until the 28th January 2024. Whether you like modern art or not, you will enjoy “playing” in the Clouds!

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