Andy Warhol at Museo del Novecento
Thirty years ago, Andy Warhol’s final opus, The Last Supper, inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s world-famous masterpiece, made its debut in Milan. To mark the thirtieth anniversary of this remarkable project, the Museo del Novecento is proud to announce a special presentation of one of its key works: the monumental painting Sixty Last Suppers. From March 24 to May 18, the painting will be installed in the renowned Sala Fontana, with its dramatic ceiling relief and neon by Lucio Fontana, and spectacular views of the Piazza del Duomo and the Palazzo Reale.
With the full support of Claudio Salsi, Superintendent of Castello Sforzesco and Director of Museo del Novecento, this presentation foreshadows the much-anticipated project in 2019, “Milan and the Legacy of Leonardo 1519-2019,” celebrating 500 years since Leonardo’s death.
Warhol’s The Last Supper project was a commission by gallerist Alexandre Iolas in 1984. Leonardo’s original mural was commissioned in 1494 by Ludovico il Moro and painted on the refectory wall of the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan between 1495 and 1498. Almost five centuries later, Iolas invited Warhol to respond to one of the most famous paintings in the history of art and religion, then organized for part of the resulting series to premiere in 1987 at the Palazzo delle Stelline in Milan.
As with most subjects, Warhol approached The Last Supper through mediations of the original, rather than the original itself. These included tchotchkes and images produced for popular consumption, as well as a black-and-white photograph of a widely circulated nineteenth-century engraving, and a schematic outline drawing that he found in a 1913 Cyclopedia of Painters and Painting. From this he generated close to 100 variations on the theme -- silkscreen paintings, prints, and works on paper -- attesting to a deep engagement with the impactful spiritual masterpiece. Some compositions appropriate Leonardo’s entire pictorial design, while others explore details of individual figures and groups, singularly or in repetition, differing in orientation, scale, and color. The seeming irreverence for the distinctions between the sacred and the profane, high art and commercial design reflects Warhol’s inevitable transformation of a deeply religious work into a cliché whose profound message has become muted through repetition.
Sixty Last Suppers, which approximates the scale of Leonardo’s original, is one of the largest and most complex works in the series. The last in a long line of repeating icons that started with Jackie Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, and Elvis Presley, and included Leonardo’s Mona Lisa, the painting is focused on an image of the architecturally framed supper room with its occupants, rather than a single iconic figure. The sober black-and-white reproduction is repeated 60 times so that, from a distance, the ten meter-wide silkscreened canvas appears like an image of a modernist building with a grid of identically scaled units. Sixty Last Suppers was included in “Andy Warhol: A Retrospective” at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1989.
Eerily prescient, The Last Supper was to be the last project of Warhol’s life. His sudden and unexpected death, just one month after the exhibition opened in Milan, turned the art event into a mass-media spectacle. As Warhol’s final series, The Last Supper serves as a powerful reiteration of the principles that informed his entire artistic enterprise.
This presentation of Sixty Last Suppers had been made possible with the support and collaboration of Gagosian, as well as the participation of Jessica Beck, Associate Curator at the Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA.
Installation by Massimiliano Locatelli, CLS Architetti
Special thanks to FLOS
Photo: Andy Warhol, Sixty Last Suppers, 1986 Acrilico e inchiostro serigrafico su tela di lino
© The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Inc. by SIAE 2017, Foto di Rob McKeever.