50 years have passed since an up-and-coming Pop provocateur named Andy Warhol sparked a minor scandal at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. As part of a prominent set of public commissions for the Philip Johnson-designed New York State Pavilion’s exterior, Warhol chose to enlarge mug shots from a NYPD booklet featuring the 13 most wanted criminals of 1962. Forming a chessboard of front and profile views, 13 Most Wanted Men was installed by April 15, 1964, and painted over by Fair officials’ direction with silver paint a few days later. When the Fair opened to the public, all that was visible was a large silver square. Later in the summer of 1964, Warhol produced another set of the Most Wanted Men paintings with the screens he had used to make the mural and nine of these are assembled in New York for the first time since their creation, forming the core of the 175 or so objects in the exhibition.
The exhibition takes Warhol’s 13 Most Wanted Men as its single subject, addressing its creation and destruction and placing it in its artistic and social context by combining art, documentation, and archival material. Parallel to the striking, somber Men canvases, materials in the exhibition are organized in strict chronological order so the viewer can appreciate the interrelations of underground and establishment; art, protest, and gay life; painting, sculpture, and film in a key year for Warhol; fine art and mainstream culture; and the lives and careers of the major players. A sampling of paintings and sculpture from that year; artists’ and photojournalists’ documentation of the Fair and of the Factory; and never-before-displayed materials from the Andy Warhol Museum archives unwind the mystery behind who ordered the painting-over of the Men and people and places that shaped the work and the incident.
Queens Museum Website