The posthumous reassessment of Warhol’s late work was already anticipated by a new generation of artists who came to prominence in the final years of his life. Indeed, it is through the decade-defining installations recreated in the following suite of rooms – Richard Prince’s Spiritual America, Keith Haring’s Pop Shop, Martin Kippenberger’s Candidature à une Retrospective and Jeff Koons’s Made in Heaven – that the depth and resonance of Warhol’s ‘business art’ model has come to be appreciated.
This room, titled after a work by Meyer Vaisman, is devoted to a highly compressed look at how this sea change came about. Frustrated by the perceived limitations of then-dominant Conceptual and Minimalist art to speak decisively to the burgeoning media culture, a new generation of artists associated with New York’s East Village challenged the ‘critical’ posture conventionally adopted by the avant-garde. Instead they favoured a more ambivalent approach, conjured by the period catchphrase ‘subversive complicity’.
Ashley Bickerton’s Tormented Self-Portrait (Susie at Arles) presented the artist as an arrangement of corporate logos. In Talent, David Robbins assembled headshots of artists, mostly his up-and-coming peers (not excluding himself), in the style of a Hollywood casting book. Condemned by the critics as merely superficial, Jeff Koons placed slick advertisements in the major art magazines in which he proudly played up the role, short-circuiting future censure. Doubling as artists and dealers, Peter Nagy and Meyer Vaisman wilfully violated the taboo cordoning creativity from commerce.
Sturtevant, who has painstakingly remade works by male artists since the 1960s, was rediscovered in this new 1980s context. Here her versions of works by Warhol and Haring challenge the originals, destabilising notions of authenticity and uniqueness while subtly asserting her own priority in the canon dominated by her celebrated subjects.