On Sunday, Sept. 25, the National Gallery of Art will unveil “Warhol: Headlines,” the newest examination of one of the 20th century’s most enigmatic artists. “A Boy for Meg,” in the National Gallery’s permanent collection, inspired the new show, which is the first to examine Warhol’s work on the theme of news media. More than 80 works are exhibited, some for the first time in the U.S.
Warhol collabored on his headline works with artists like Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. This untitled work, by Warhol and Haring, was a gift to Madonna for her wedding to Sean Penn. The headline refers to the 1985 scandal when unauthorized nude photos of Madonna were sold to Penthouse and Playboy magazines, but the pop star reacted with indifference.
Warhol’s headlines weren’t straight reproductions: He wasn’t afraid to alter text to suit his whims. Here, in a hand-drawn interpretation of a 1956 edition of the Princeton Leader, Warhol replaced the name of a local plumber (right column) with that of his friend, Charles Lisanby, who was television production designer. Warhol also frequently misspelled words in his headline works (“Princton”), but it’s unclear whether or not this was intentional.
But Warhol was most interested in headlines when they contained personal tragedy, which could be bought and sold in the headlines. Warhol considered the paper to be a commodity, like his famous Campbell’s soup cans. But the news, to him, was something more. He once said, “I'm confused about who the news belongs to. I always have it in my head that if your name's in the news, then the news should be paying you. Because it's your news and they're taking it and selling it as their product. But then they always say that they're helping you, and that's true too, but still, if people didn't give the news their news, and if everybody kept their news to themselves, the news wouldn't have any news.”