The Brant Foundation (421 East 6th Street, New York City) exhibits the private art collection of Peter Brant. It focuses on modern and contemporary art. In addition to its 7,000 square feet of exhibition space in New York, it has a second location in Greenwich.
The Brant Foundation showcases special exhibits that are focused Brant’s collections on specific artists and themes. While we do not visit the location on every trip to New York City, we have visited several of the special exhibits when they focus on an particular artist.
2023: Andy Warhol – Thirty are Better than One
The exhibition draws from Brant’s collection to showcase over 100 Andy Warhol works. The exhibit spans two decades (the 1960s and 70s) of the artist’s work drawing examples from several of his most iconic series. The exhibit’s name refers to the number of images in Andy Warhol’s 30 Mona Lisa silkscreens.
Coming after SFMOMA’s 2019 “Rethinking the Legacy of Andy Warhol” exhibition and our 2014 visit to the Pittsburgh’s (the artist’s birthplace and childhood home) Warhol Museum, we entered this exhibit with a pretty good understanding of Warhol’s history, artistic evolution, and work. But we are always interested in his works.
Warhol’s Obsession with the Allure of Fame
Warhol relentlessly explored fame and celebrity both in how he created his persona and in what he put in his art. His portraits of famous people often started with Polaroid snapshots that he took in his studio. The exhibition begins with several dozen of these Polaroids of celebrities including politicians, athletes, artists including himself, and a double image of Jean-Michel Basquiat.
His fascination with celebrity continued with a wall-sized mural of the Last Supper (not to speak of several multi-image silkscreens of the mural and separate images of figures cut from a copy of the sketch).
The exhibit continued with mechanical reproductions of partially-colored silkscreen (and other media) images of several other celebs including Mona Lisa, Jackie Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe and Mao.
It also includes examples of some of his other regularly produced subjects including car crashes, electric chairs and mug shots from “wanted person” posters.
Then, of course, is his representation of other societal obsessions including money (as with a silkscreen of 92 dollar bills and a sketch of a large-scale “$” symbol), mass-produced products (including his iconic Campbell soup cans, a wooden box of empty Coca Cola bottles and a stack of cardboard boxes from products including Brillo, Campbell’s Soup, and Kellogg’s Corn Flakes.
Examples of his work in other media include one of his giant “oxidation paintings” created with urine and a lovely pastel image unlike those we have seen from Warhol—tan-colored wash on which an image with an image of a woman and subtle blue lines. Certainly an interesting, if not necessary revelatory exhibition.
2019: Jean-Michel Basquiat
Jean-Michel Basquiat was a high school dropout and graffiti street artist who turned out neo-expressionist master’s paintings, prints, and sculptures. His studio was on the streets of Lower Manhattan where he started as a graffiti artist.
This exhibit showed 71 of his pieces. This is an extraordinary number given that he died of a heroin overdose at only 27 years of age. Most of the pieces integrate suggestive words and phrases with figurative and abstract images to provide commentary on socio-economic and political issues such as racism and inequality, wealth and poverty and class struggle. Others are homages to some of his black heroes including jazz musicians and boxers. This was a wonderful exhibit of a significant portion of the work of an artist whose pieces are rarely seen, and when they are, only one or two at a time.