Warhol’s lost mural returns to New York

The Queens Museum is commemorating the Warhol mural 13 Most Wanted Men, 50 years after it was banned
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Detail from 13 Most Wanted Men (1964) by Andy Warhol
Detail from 13 Most Wanted Men (1964) by Andy Warhol

Of the ten artists commissioned to produce work for the 1964 New York World’s Fair, Andy Warhol proved the most problematic. The fair’s theme, of ‘Peace Through Understanding’ might have captured the spirit of the age, yet it was out of sync with the great pop artist’s own works, which, at the time drew more from the lurid pages of the tabloids than the loftier achievements of man.

Perhaps fair organisers shouldn’t have been too surprised when Warhol created a mural for the fair’s New York State Pavilion, consisting of  mug shots of wanted criminals screen-printed onto Masonite boards. The work, entitled 13 Most Wanted Men took its source material from a New York Police Department leaflet of the same name. Yet despite this official reference, the fair’s organisers objected to the painting and, with the artist’s permission, it was painted over before the fair opened.

 

Andy Warhol working on 'Self-Portrait' at The Factory (1964)
Andy Warhol working on 'Self-Portrait' at The Factory (1964)

This year, to mark the World’s Fair’s fiftieth anniversary, the Queens Museum in Flushing Meadows, New York - the site of the ’64 fair - dedicates a show to that lost work. 13 Most Wanted Men: Andy Warhol and the 1964 World’s Fair runs 27 April – 7 September, and focusses on this one lost work, “addressing its creation and destruction and placing it in its artistic and social context by combining art, documentation, and archival material”.

While the show doesn’t include the original mural, it does feature canvas screen prints from the series, as well as other works, such as Warhol’s Brillo Boxes, which were first shown the same month as the fair opened, as well as photographs, source material and archive documents, detailing both Warhol’s Factory, the fair itself and the cultural tenor of the time.

 

Green Disaster (Green Disaster Twice) (1963) by Andy Warhol
Green Disaster (Green Disaster Twice) (1963) by Andy Warhol

Anniversary aside, the lost mural seems like a good work to commemorate; it was created just after Warhol’s Death and Disaster series, widely regarded as some of his best work, and perhaps pre-empts his later focus on portraiture. For more on the show, go here; and for greater insight into America’s foremost pop artist, take a look at our many Warhol books, including his catalogue raisonné which we are proud to publish and a little more affordable our Phaidon Focus Warhol book. 


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