Middlebury College Museum of Art

Exhibitions

Celebrity

May 20–August 15

Andy Warhol’s pronouncement that “in the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes” seems more prophetic today than when it was first uttered in 1968. Facebook and the proliferation of other forms of social networking technologies beam images around the globe in nanoseconds. Like would-be American idols, anyone with access to the right equipment (whether video camera, computer, or cell phone) can become the instant star of a self-recorded performance—one with world-wide distribution at the flick of a finger.

Warhol is perhaps the greatest celebrity artist of his time—in part as a result of unsurpassed media savvy and an unerring sense of style. But he was not alone in portraying the rich, the famous, and the justly distinguished personages of his time. In this exhibition his art provides the pivotal point for a focused survey of celebrity portraiture from the waning Roman Empire to the present day. This small exhibition draws upon the Museum’s permanent collection, and highlights two recent gifts to the collection: Polaroid portraits by Warhol and photographs of famous men by Arnold Newman.

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Andy Warhol, American, 1928–1987, Marilyn, 1967, screenprint on paper, 36 x 36 inches. Collection of Middlebury College Museum of Art, Vermont. Purchase with Funds provided by the G. Crossan Seybolt ’77 Art Acquisition Fund, 2004.032. © 2010 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

In contemplating these works, we see that glamorous appearances alone do not make for a celebrity image. Deeds figure in the pictures as well. For some artists the style of portraiture is tailored to the accomplishments of the particular sitter, and the resulting image conveys the reason for renown. Other artists choose to portray notorious historical figures and base their likenesses on documents from the past. Still others portray their acquaintances as if they were celebrities, conferring upon them an aura of significance. The range of images in this exhibition includes famous people whose names will be familiar to us. Other subjects are less well known—indeed unknown—but they are depicted as if they are people we ought to be able to recognize. In each of these instances, the style in which the sitter is presented carries with it the stamp of celebrity.

Organized by Middlebury alumnus Pujan K. Gandhi ’09—in conjunction with Chief Curator Emmie Donadio, and assisted by interns Isabel McWilliams ’10 and Alexandra Guynn ’12—the show includes works by Warhol, Newman, Chuck Close, Vic Muniz, Nan Goldin, Mathew Brady, William Hogarth, and John Steuart Curry, as well as the anonymous second-century Roman carver of Emperor Commodus. Celebrity will remain on view through Sun., Aug. 15.

The Middlebury College Museum of Art, located in the Mahaney Center for the Arts on Rte. 30 on the southern edge of campus, is free and open to the public Tues. through Fri. from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sat. and Sun. from noon to 5 p.m. It is closed Mondays. The Museum is physically accessible. Parking is available in the Center for the Arts parking lot. For further information, please call (802) 443–5007 or TTY (802) 443–3155, or visit the Museum’s website at museum.middlebury.edu.