A twofer from "MUNCH | WARHOL and the Multiple Image", a show at Scandinavia House in New York that’s now entering its final weekend. In 1984, a Manhattan gallery that showed lithos by Munch commissioned Warhol to do silkscreen riffs on them, which he did, but then never printed up as an edition. Warhol, canny as ever about how things stand in the art world, makes clear how emptied of meaning Munch’s icons had become by his day, after they’d gained celebrity status – something Warhol knew more about than anyone. There’s also a sense that he knows that Munch, like him, was an artist on the make, turning out prints to fill and create a demand: Munch’s collectors, buying direct from him, could get a print hand-touched by the artist or not, in any number of versions that got released over time. Of course Munch, like his buyers, actually believed in technique and the artist’s hand, even as it served their business interests; Warhol put both at the service of what he’d declared a higher art form – the art of business itself. In the end, though, Munch’s screamer, in Warhol’s version, has some of the pathos of the silkscreened Marilyn. Except that here it’s great art that’s been devoured by its own success. It’s become the stuff of coloring books, ready to be redone in green and red.
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