Pop Art From The Guggenheim Collection Reanimated – Bilbao

Maurizio Cattelan Daddy, Daddy 2008

In celebration of Pop Art’s enduring legacy, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao unveils “Signs and Objects: Pop Art from the Guggenheim Collection,” a long overdue exhibition running from February 16 to September 15, 2024. This curated showcase transports visitors into the heart of the Pop Art movement, exploring its genesis, evolution, and contemporary resonance.

Curated by Lauren Hinkson and Joan Young of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, “Signs and Objects” delves into the revolutionary spirit of Pop Art, which emerged in the Post War period in America against a backdrop of economic prosperity and burgeoning consumer culture. Artists like Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, James Rosenquist, and Andy Warhol redefined the visual landscape, drawing inspiration from advertisements, comic strips, and mass media to create a bold new language of artistic expression.

James Rosenquistb. 1933, Grand Forks, North Dakota, d. 2017, New York Flamingo Capsule, 1970 Oil on canvas and aluminized Mylar 290 × 701 cm Guggenheim Bilbao Museoa GBM1997.9 © James Rosenquist Foundation, Guggenheim Bilbao Museoa, Bilbao, 2024
James Rosenquist Flamingo Capsule 1970 Oil on canvas and aluminized Mylar Guggenheim Bilbao Museoa GBM 1997.9 © James Rosenquist

At the heart of the exhibition lies a collection of some 40 key works by seminal ‘Pop’ artists, each resonating with wit, humour, and irony. Pop Art’s signature cool detachment and impersonal aesthetic challenged the conventions of “high art,” marking a radical departure from the emotional intensity of Abstract Expressionism. From Lichtenstein’s simulated Ben-Day dots to Rosenquist’s fragmented imagery drawn from advertising, the works in “Signs and Objects” celebrate and critique the icons of popular culture.

Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol Courtesy Guggenheim Museum Collection
L to R: Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol Courtesy Guggenheim Museum Collection

The Guggenheim Museum’s engagement with Pop art dates back to its landmark 1963 exhibition, “Six Painters and the Object,” curated by Lawrence Alloway. This early validation of the movement set the stage for a series of critical monographic surveys dedicated to Pop art pioneers. From Richard Hamilton to Andy Warhol, the Guggenheim’s commitment to preserving and promoting the legacy of pop art is palpable throughout the exhibition.

One of the exhibition’s highlights is Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s monumental “Soft Shuttlecock” (1995), a whimsical exploration of scale and space that playfully deflates the museum’s imposing architecture. As visitors navigate through the exhibition, they are invited to ponder the intersection of art, culture, and society, engaging with themes of consumerism, mass production, and the commodification of the everyday.

“Signs and Objects” also features a selection of contemporary works that interrogate the legacies of Pop art, challenging conventional interpretations and reimagining its relevance in the digital age. Artists like Josephine Meckseper and Douglas Gordon offer provocative reflections on consumer culture and mass media, pushing the boundaries of artistic practice and interpretation.

b. 1922, London, d. 2011, Oxford, United KingdomThe Solomon R. Guggenheim (Black and White), 1965–66
Richard Hamilton b. 1922, London, d. 2011, Oxford, United Kingdom The Solomon R. Guggenheim (Black and White), 1965–66

From Richard Hamilton’s fibreglass reliefs to Andy Warhol’s iconic silkscreens, “Signs and Objects” invites visitors to engage with the work. As the exhibition unfolds, it becomes clear that Pop Art’s influence transcends time and borders, leaving its mark on the landscape of contemporary art and culture.

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao: “Signs and Objects: Pop Art from the Guggenheim Collection February 16 to September 15, 2024

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