Petersen Museum features Warhol’s unfinished ‘Cars’ series on seminal Mercedes-Benzes, and we pretend like we know the first thing about art
Go to modern art galleries often enough and you’ll eventually come across that most perfect of sentences: “I could have done that”. For us, it’s not a worthwhile visit to Tate Modern until we can scratch that off our mental bingo card. Your idea of a good time may vary, et cetera.
The first time we ever heard the phrase was in relation to Andy Warhol’s Black Bean, better known by the fact that it is undeniably a painting of a can of Campbell’s soup. And sure, it means much more from the perspective of pop art, its wilful rejection of established rules for what makes something a work of art and so on, but we don’t have enough time or turtlenecks to go into the matter further.
Suffice to say that quite a bit of Warhol’s oeuvre is underappreciated by the general populace. But the inverse seems to apply for art snobs – Andy’s later commissions from various brands never seem to rate a mention beyond a quick savaging. Which is about where we, and a late-Eighties set for Mercedes-Benz, come in.
A retrospective on Warhol once said: “His commissions for Mercedes-Benz and Perrier are undistinguished glitz.” And in the art world, that’s the kind of slap that comes from the shoulder. Apparently, as much as silk-screenings of soup cans or the Sticky Fingers album cover inflamed and enraged the art world, apparently the one insult it wasn’t willing to bear was commercial viability. But the entire point of art is to elicit an emotional response. If it only manages disdain, has it not still achieved its purpose in spite of its critics?
In any case, visitors to the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles will get the chance to ponder that very conundrum (other conundrums are available) from July 23, as Mercedes displays its private reserve of Warhol works and the cars that inspired them. Or said visitors could just look at some basically priceless pieces of aesthetic brilliance, be they mechanical or mounted on a wall. We won’t judge.
And if the nose-in-the-air set wants to dismiss some of the greatest cars of all time, as rendered by perhaps the most famous and influential artist of our time, that a) is very much on them and b) probably misunderstands what Andrew Warhola Junior was about. As that same Warhol retrospective also said: “Discriminating taste didn’t excite him as much as indiscriminate taste.”
You might be waiting a while to hear that sentence at Tate Modern, mind.
 
Art © 2022 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Cars © Mercedes Benz AG. But then you kind of already knew that
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