A Private Tour of the Andy Warhol Exhibit at Mori Art Museum
Being a Mori Living resident certainly has its perks, and one of my favorite things about living where we do is the number of community-building activities that are available exclusively to residents. I've seen a variety of events advertised in the past, from sake tastings and sushi-making workshops to movie nights at Roppongi Hills, and the ones I have joined have always been great fun. But the recent private tour of the latest Mori Art Museum exhibition, "Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal," definitely ranks among one of the most interesting so far.
The tour met at the Roppongi Hills club for some welcome Champagne. This was a great opportunity to meet fellow residents and make some new friends. We were all Warhol fans, and were excited to see the exhibit.
The tour was led by Fumio Nanjo, director of the Mori Art Museum, who gave us many insights into the exhibition and the efforts he and his team went through to expand the works on display, including borrowing from other galleries and from Warhol’s family. After the exhibit finishes its Tokyo run, it will move on to Singapore and Shanghai, but thanks to Nanjo-san and his team, what we get to see in Tokyo is more extensive.
The exhibition begins with pictures of Warhol looking very corporate in his first job as a graphic designer. Throughout the exhibit there are references to Japan and Warhol’s many visits here, including a photo of him taking part in a Hato bus tour in Tokyo in 1956. Elements of the artist’s work, such as his use of gold leaf, were also influenced by his visits to Japan.
Moving into the next section, the focus of the exhibit switched to the 1960s and Warhol’s rise to fame as an artist. As soon as I saw the iconic Campbell’s soup cans from across the room, I found it hard to focus on anything else. But Nanjo-san managed to keep my attention by explaining how Warhol’s work as a designer affected his composition and design sense. Other iconic works on display include “Seven Cadillacs” (1962) and pop-art portraits of celebrities including Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, Jackie O and Elizabeth Taylor. The colors of the artworks are so striking and fresh that they look like they could have been painted yesterday.
One of the highlights of the exhibit and a testament to the dedication and attention to detail of the Mori Art Museum team is a room in which Warhol’s famous “Factory” studio space has been recreated, complete with actual wooden boxes painted to look like the original cardboard boxes housing the cans of soup.
The exhibit moves on through the 1970s and 80s, focusing on Warhol’s marriage of business and art, and the many paintings he was commissioned to do by celebrities and politicians. An amazing thing to see is a Japanese TV commercial Warhol did for TDK video tapes in 1983. In it Warhol speaks Japanese, and Nanjo-san explained that when it was recorded, Warhol couldn’t properly pronounce the word “kirei” (Japanese for beautiful) and instead said “kirai” (hate), so if you listen carefully near the end you can hear an audio edit of a Japanese person saying the word kirei in his place.
The last room, and for me the most interesting, was the “time box” room, consisting of many boxes containing various items. Warhol was trying to make an archive and record his life at that point in time, so the items he kept included a flyer for Studio 54, newspapers and other things of interest to him. Some of the larger boxes on display are related to Japan, in which he had a kabuki program and a letter from immigration. Nanjo-san commented that Warhol used these boxes in the same way that many people today use blogs to record their lives.
Even after you leave the gallery, the exhibition still is not over, as the museum shop has plenty of great Warhol-inspired products for sale to help you remember the fantastic exhibition and to inspire you in your daily life.
After the tour concluded, we headed back to the Roppongi Hills Club and enjoyed more Champagne and canapés, along with inspired conversation with new friends. Overall, it was a great experience, and it has made me want to attend even more of these Mori Living events. They are a perfect way to enrich your experience in Japan while meeting new and interesting people who in fact happen to be your neighbors!