phone mail2 facebook twitter play whatsapp
Advertisement

Interview with Ian Dejardin, Director of Dulwich Picture Gallery

26 June 2012

"The portfolios, and that's what this exhibition is dedicated to, are the pure prints. When he did a screen print on canvas he called it a painting. When he did a screen print on paper it was a print. If he did an addition of prints on paper it was a portfolio and very often in the portfolios he uses the same subject matter..."

The Dulwich Picture Gallery’s new exhibition ‘Andy Warhol: The Portfolios’ showcases Warhol’s vibrant ‘paintings’ and prints collated from the Bank of America Collection. Housed in England’s oldest gallery the display includes some of Warhol’s most famous and recognisable images. London Calling’s Rebecca White talks to Director of the Gallery, Ian Dejardin.

 

London Calling: What do you feel were the challenges of curating Warhol for Britain’s oldest gallery?
Ian Dejardin: They’re caused by the gallery itself. We’re the oldest public art gallery in England and I think a lot of American curators would see the way we exhibit as eccentric. So that made curating an American art exhibition here a challenge.

Our spaces are slightly small and domestic in scale, as they weren’t designed as exhibition rooms in the first place. So it was really the thought of having these great big - and they really are big, like a metre squared - dazzling, bright, modern prints in our small spaces. So that was the real challenge and it wasn’t until I saw the exhibition in America a few years ago that I realised it would work and that we could pull it off here.

LC: How do you think the collection fits with the identity of the gallery?
ID: It’s amazing how many of the themes that Warhol tackled are in fact classic old mastered themes. We’re sitting in a room here with still lifes, and of course - the portraits he was famous for. There are also a series of images of Vesuvius erupting in the corner over there and that’s a classic 17th and 18th century thing. Warhol was subversive in many ways, but he didn’t actually try to upset the applecart in terms of what he made, what he painted. His themes are the same as in the gallery.

LC: What’s it like to work with Lillian Lambrechts?
ID: I love Lillian, she’s a wonderful person. Basically she’s in charge of the entire, huge Bank of America Collection. We worked very closely with her on the Wrath family show a couple of years back and so Lillian has worked incredibly hard over the last few years, really pulling together what the Bank of America Collection is really capable of, and creating shows that can go out into the community like this one. So Lillian is such a joy to work with and always has been.

LC: Do you see the programme of the gallery following a particular narrative?
ID: We have several narratives ongoing at Dulwich and that’s how I like it. I’m sure many people think the exhibitions here are quite random, but they’re not actually. They follow various series, but they can be wide ranging in a way many other galleries can’t. So we have an American series that started in 2006 with Winslow Homer and has covered all sorts of ground including Saul Steinberg and Norman Rockwell before it arrived at Warhol and we're doing Whistler next year. So that's just one series, we also have an old master series going, and we have a works on paper series going; it's amazing how many of our series overlap. But they spin a narrative and tell a story so people know what to expect and come back to see what we're doing next.

LC: Warhol’s use of screen-printing, as a process for creating art, was almost as controversial as the art itself. How do you think this exhibition highlights this?
ID: Well it makes a very sound point, which is effectively that even now Warhol paintings - as they're called - sell for hundreds of millions. I mean, they're incredibly expensive and yet a Warhol painting is exactly the same technique as a Warhol print.

The portfolios, and that's what this exhibition is dedicated to, are the pure prints. When he did a screen print on canvas he called it a painting. When he did a screen print on paper it was a print. If he did an addition of prints on paper it was a portfolio and very often in the portfolios he uses the same subject matter, so there are Marilyns there are Campbell’s soup cans – there are all sorts of things. The flowers that he did in paintings that were really successful – ‘paintings’ – he revisited later as portfolios.

So, funnily enough, to someone who doesn't know the difference between canvas and paper this show is just Andy Warhol, it looks exactly the same, Marilyn is there, the soup cans are there, and it’s the technique that matters.

LC: You described the exhibition as “a decorative feast of pop on the August walls.” Do you think that any of the images have lost their impact in their many reproductions?
ID: Do you know what? No. I think it's one of these things where Warhol is hugely familiar - you would recognise a Warhol painting anywhere. Even ordinary members of the public who don't know about art would recognise a Warhol - they all know a Marilyn. So they seem as if they are incredibly familiar and nothing quite prepares you for the shock and the intensity of the colour.

There are some subtleties in his technique - he obviously became very good at screen printing and there's a sparkle. He uses diamond dust, which is ground glass, sprinkled onto the surface to give it a kind of glamour and shimmer to it. He uses drawing techniques as well, so I think the prints are always a surprise - the intensity of them. You can't really experience that unless you’re in a room with the actual thing.

LC: The exhibition is an interesting reaction to the Olympics. What was your thought process behind curating this now, and how do you think the Olympics will affect attendance to the show?
ID: To be perfectly honest I don't know how the Olympics will affect attendance to the exhibition. We're far enough out from the centre of London that I expect we won't have the inundation of crowds that, say, the National Gallery will have.

That said if the visiting levels to London are as expected some people are going to want to escape from all the sport. So those who are fed up might be looking for something else to do, something that's out of the hurly-burly of the centre of town. Where better than leafy Dulwich?!

So I thought that the only thing that we could do to relate to the Olympics would be to do tennis in art or boxing through the ages, which would be pointless. So I thought we would go for the biggest and most wonderful modern name I could think of. Everyone knows Warhol; everyone knows those images and if anything is going to get them out of the centre of town it will be Warhol. I haven't done it just to have a big name, it's the beauty of it; it's because these images are just so wonderful. So it's a real treat for anyone coming for the Olympics who are fed up with the Olympics.

 

'Andy Warhol: The Portfolios' is on at Dulwich Picture Gallery from 20 June - 16 September. Admission fees apply.

 

{ad-placement-MPU1}

Most popular

What to See at The Cinema

What to See at The Cinema

Your go-to guide to what's on the silver screen
Advertisement
Top 5 Bars and Restaurants for Shisha-Lovers

Top 5 Bars and Restaurants for Shisha-Lovers

The five finest spots in London to shoot the breeze and pass the pipe
Advertisement
The Best Riverside Walks In London

The Best Riverside Walks In London

Oh we do like to be beside the canalside...
Advertisement
A Guide to the Best Lidos in London

A Guide to the Best Lidos in London

Looking to beat the heat or enjoy some fun in the sun? Here are our top 5 London lidos to enjoy this summer.
Advertisement
Top Theatre of the Week

Top Theatre of the Week

Where to get the best of new theatre openings in London
Top Exhibitions of the Week

Top Exhibitions of the Week

The place to come for all the best current exhibitions in London...
London’s Must-See Flower Shows in 2019

London’s Must-See Flower Shows in 2019

With the balmy weather here to stay, why not take in the sumptuous beauty that these London flower shows have to offer
Top Gigs of the Week

Top Gigs of the Week

From underground indie to rap stars to house legends, we've got you covered...
Where to Eat: Desserts in East London

Where to Eat: Desserts in East London

Even if the Easter bunny doesn’t visit your garden this month, there are plenty of ways to get your sweet fix this springtime

Your inbox deserves a little culture!!

Advertisement