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Wednesday, 6 February, 2002, 19:22 GMT
The familiar face of Warhol
Soap opera: Campbell's Soup Cans 1962
The work of Andy Warhol is the focus of a major exhibition at Tate Modern, London. BBC News Online's Keily Oakes visits the show to assess if the maverick artist does indeed deserve more than his 15 minutes of fame.

Think of Andy Warhol and instant images that spring to mind include Marilyn Monroe and the Campbell's soup tins.

These are works of art that are constantly wheeled out for any discussion about pop culture, obliterating all other work Warhol created during his lifetime.

The new exhibition at London's Tate Modern seeks to redress this by displaying a large collection of his work, spanning the decades.

Warhol immortalized Marilyn Monroe in 1962
The first part of the exhibition leads visitors through his early work as a commercial artist and book illustrator.

Much of one room is given over to early sketches and line drawings, highlighting Warhol's love of famous people and the artist Truman Capote.

His striking sketch of James Dean's car crash does not exactly display his artistic flair, more a morbid fascination with death but with a romantic touch of leaves in the shape of love hearts.

As the exhibition progresses it returns to more familiar territory with screen prints of Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Elvis and Jackie O.

Dark side

The soup tins created in 1962 along with Chairman Mao (1972) are also there to be seen close up, rather than staring out from a magazine or art student's wall.

But because these images are so familiar they somehow become less striking.

There was no "wow" factor when seeing them hanging live because it was not like seeing something fresh for the first time.

Warhol himself said: "Publicity is like eating peanuts, once you start you can't stop."

Big Electric Chair
Big Electric Chair was created in 1967
And the publicity constantly surrounding him - much more than 15 minutes - has probably worked to his detriment because his work has never been unfashionable and so is always in the public eye.

But other works such as the Statue of Liberty print are able to carry a new resonance as a symbol of creative and individual freedom.

Persevere through the gallery and those who do not know how Warhol's artistic career progressed will be amazed at how dark his work became.

His Disaster era is chilling to see up close, combined with a voyeuristic feeling that jars.

Should we really be seeing these squashed feet under a car as art in his Foot and Tyre (1963) piece?

Helium-filled balloons

This image leaves more to the imagination than is shown, others are more graphic in their gruesomeness.

Flowers 1964
Large flower panels dominate one room of the Tate Modern
His Electric Chair and 13 Most Wanted Men works also demonstrate the murkier side of Warhol.

But nestling between these rooms are fun bits such as the smile-evoking Silver Clouds - large helium filled silver balloons bouncing around in their own dedicated space.

Warhol was never shy about painting himself and there are many self-portraits included in the Tate Modern exhibition.

His silk screen self-portraits provide a haunting glimpse into his intense mind as each colour change appears to expose a different layer of his personality.

The Andy Warhol Retrospective at the Tate Modern runs until 1 April

The BBC's Rosie Millard
Warhol show brings 15 more minutes of fame
See also:

07 Feb 02 | Reviews
Andy Warhol: Press views
08 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Warhol's Ads on display
10 Oct 01 | Arts
Warhol manager's art for sale
13 Apr 01 | Showbiz
Poland sells Monroe photos
07 Feb 02 | Reviews
Andy Warhol: Your views
05 Feb 02 | Arts
ICA chairman resigns
01 Feb 02 | Arts
Tracey Emin promotes BBC Four
25 Apr 01 | Arts
Emin's new show gets personal
13 Apr 00 | Entertainment
Emin airs her dirty linen
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