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Friday, October 10, 2008

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Andy Warhol’s original show “Ten Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century” from 1980 is now on view at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco in a complete set of paintings, preparatory sketches, and source photographs along with the documentary materials related to the creation of the portraits. In its present incarnation the show is called “Warhol’s Jews: Ten Portraits Reconsidered,” and was organized by the CJM and The Jewish Museum in New York. It remains a mystery how maestro Warhol chose his “Jewish Geniuses” (as he called the series) out of his prep list of 100 prominent figures of the last century, but the chosen ten include a famous French actress Sarah Bernhardt; the first Jewish Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Louis Brandeis; a philosopher and educator Martin Buber; Albert Einstein; Sigmund Freud; the Marx Brothers; Golda Meir; George Gershwin; Franz Kafka, and Gertrude Stein. When asked, Warhol said that he chose his subjects because he liked the faces, but coincidentally or not, none of them was alive at the time, perhaps, providing more creative freedom for the artist in his treatment of the portraits. Met with some skepticism back in 1980, the show has raised questions about the true motives of the King of Pop—was his interest in Jewish cultural icons dictated by anything more than potential commercial success? Three decades later, we have this amazing art—a genuine testament to the undisputable greatness of the artist and his subjects. Now, when the artist has joined them in History, the view at his work has to become clearer and perhaps more appreciative than before. The show is also accompanied by straightforward and witty quotes from Warhol’s diaries, adding to this new understanding of his creative impulses. “Warhol’s Jews: Ten Portraits Reconsidered” runs at the Contemporary Jewish Museum at 736 Mission Street, SF, from October 12 through January 25, 2009. More info at: Image: Andy Warhol, Sarah Bernhardt from Ten Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century, 1980, synthetic polymer paint and silk-screen ink on canvas, 40 x 40 in. (101.6 x 101.6 cm) © 2008 Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts/ARS, New York/ Courtesy Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York/


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