Art

TIFF’s star-spangled exhibit unpacks Andy Warhol’s celebrity obsessions

TIFF’s star-spangled exhibit unpacks Andy Warhol’s celebrity obsessions

A selection of Polaroids, screen prints and portraits that transformed the chronicler of icons into an icon in his own right

Andy Warhol was a neurotic and fragile child. Growing up in Depression-era Pittsburgh, he developed Sydenham chorea, a neurological disorder that left him confined to the house for months at a time. During his convalescence, he stoked an obsession with movie stars: he pored over fan magazines and even convinced his older brother, Paul, to write fan letters to the celebrities on his behalf. In exchange, the studios sent him dozens of headshots—autographed glossies of stars like Veronica Lake, Mae West, Marjorie Reynolds and, his all-time favourite, Shirley Temple, who misspelled his name in her personalized message. He painstakingly pasted each one into a cardboard scrapbook, arranging them in orderly grids.

That scuffed album is the key to understanding Andy Warhol: the DNA behind a whimsical career devoted to the reverence and ridicule of celebrity commodification. (Even his fluffy platinum-blond wig looked like a distorted tribute to Hollywood glamour.) The TIFF Bell Lightbox has collaborated with Pittsburgh’s Andy Warhol Museum to present a radiant catalogue of Warhol’s fame fixation. There are sketches and paintings of his favourite stars, over exposed glamour shots of Liza Minnelli and Brigitte Bardot, campy movies created at the Factory Studio, even a retrofitted version of his stationary 16-millimetre Bolex camera that guests can use to film themselves. The scrapbook is there, too, of course, as well as the works it inspired—row after row of rainbow silkscreened Marilyns, Graces and Ingrids. Here, our favourite items from the exhibit.

Andy Warhol
Warhol assembled his celebrity scrapbook between 1938 and 1941. This page includes shots of Mae West, Henry Fonda and Carmen Miranda.

Andy Warhol
In 1984, two years after Grace Kelly’s death, Warhol added her face to his screen-print collection.

Andy Warhol
Warhol copied Hedy Lamarr’s 1945 Maybelline ad in pencil, then turned it into a print. Later, he filmed a Factory Studio movie about Lamarr’s downfall.

Andy Warhol
Warhol used Polaroid snaps as the foundation for many of his celebrity paintings and screen prints. He shot Arnold Schwarzenegger, Liza Minnelli and Sylvester Stallone at the Factory.

Andy Warhol
Shirley Temple was Warhol’s favourite movie star. He mimicked her cutesy tics and mannerisms his whole life.

Andy Warhol
Warhol used this Marilyn Monroe publicity photograph as the basis for his iconic screen prints. The black lines are his crop marks.

Andy Warhol
Warhol shot films and screen tests at the Factory throughout the ’60s, often featuring his mother, Julia, and his muse, Edie Sedgwick. The inside of the studio was painted silver and wallpapered in tinfoil.

Andy Warhol: Stars of the Silver Screen. To Jan. 24. TIFF Bell Lightbox, 350 King St. W., tiff.net.