Andy Warhol. Gold Marilyn Monroe. 1962 411

Silkscreen ink and acrylic on canvas, 6' 11 1/4" x 57" (211.4 x 144.7 cm). Gift of Philip Johnson. © 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Director, Glenn Lowry: Warhol created Gold Marilyn Monroe in 1962, the year of Monroe's death.

Curator, Anne Umland: This image was based on a pose, a photograph used for publicity purposes for the film Niagara in 1953. When you look at it close up, there are all sorts of smudges, blurs, imperfections that I think keep speaking to us of Marilyn lost to the world. Her image is no longer immediate. Her eye shadow sorts of slides down a little bit into her eyes. The lipstick is a little bit off-register. Everything is slipping, slipping away.

In other works, Warhol would use this same image of Marilyn. But this one is unique, the only one silk-screened in the center of a glittery gold field, reminiscent of Byzantine Christian icon paintings. So here is Marilyn represented as an object of veneration, but of a very secular sort.

Warhol says there was no profound reason for doing a death series, just a surface reason. But then, of course, you want to know why did Warhol return again and again to the subject of death? When a person is commodified there is a certain death of self involved there. With Warhol, there is always this darker side, as a countercurrent to the bright colors and the popular cheerful consumer imagery.

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