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An exhibition of works by Andy Warhol has opened at the Ashmolean Museum.

The Museum has teamed up with the Hall Art Foundation in the USA, which has lent over 100 paintings, sculptures, screen prints and drawings from its private collection.

The Museum has also been loaned some the artist's films from The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.

The exhibition opens today and runs until 15 May 2016.

Dr Alexander Sturgis, Director of the Ashmolean, says: 'We are hugely grateful to the Hall Art Foundation and to Andy and Christine Hall for making this exhibition possible with the generous loan of their superb collection.

'The substance and significance of Andy Warhol's art becomes more evident with each passing decade and this exhibition aims to add to what we know about Warhol by highlighting unfamiliar and surprising works from across his career.'

Sir Norman Rosenthal, The Hall Art Foundation Curator of Contemporary Art at the Ashmolean, says: 'Evermore, Warhol feels like the decisive artist of his generation who peered into the future and saw his world with all its glamour and with all its horror. The Hall's collection of Warhols demonstrates the artist's extraordinarily diverse output, as he reacts to his world with penetrating truthfulness and wit.'

Among the works featured are a series of screen prints of Joseph Beuys, based on a Polaroid photograph taken by Warhol in 1979 when the two giants of postwar art came face-to-face for the first time.

Curated by Sir Norman Rosenthal, the exhibition spans Warhol’s entire career, from iconic works of the '60s to the experimental creations of his last decade. It is arranged chronologically, opening with the early Pop masterpieces and portraits.

The first room includes works from key series such as Flowers and Brillo Soap Pads Box; a group of artists' portraits which features Roy Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist and Frank Stella; as well as some of Warhol’s earliest experiments in screen print portraits with pictures of patrons, friends and celebrities (Troy, Patty Oldenburg, Ethel Scull, Jackie).

Films of the early ‘60s, including Sleep (1963) and Empire (1964) and a selection of Warhol’s Screen Tests, illustrate how the artist engaged with the moving image. This brings us to the point, in 1968, when Warhol was shot and seriously wounded by the feminist activist Valerie Solanas.

The main room of the exhibition is dominated by a spectacular display of Warhol’s commissioned portraits spanning the 1970s right up to the year before his death. The group features performers, socialites and politicians including the singer and songwriter, Paul Anka; American celebrities, Maria Shriver and Pia Zadora; the Princess of Iran; and the West German Chancellor, Willy Brandt.

The room also includes works (Hammer and Sickle, Mao, Dollar Sign, Crosses) that offer typically ambiguous and non-committal social and political commentary; and it features a sequence of pencil portraits from the 1980s based, like the prints and paintings, on photographs of figures such as Ingrid Bergman and Jane Fonda.

The gallery closes with Warhol's response to the challenge of abstraction with Rorschach, Shadows and Oxidation Paintings.

The exhibition's final room concentrates on the productive last years of Warhol’s life. In the Positive/Negative series, Warhol revisited the subject matter of his earliest Pop works - advertising, newspaper headlines and commercial packaging - and explored new territory in overtly political and religious works such as Map of the Eastern U.S.S.R. Missile Bases and Detail of the Last Supper. Another departure was Warhol’s use of simple slogans including Stress!, Art and one of his last works, the uncannily prescient Heaven and Hell are Just One Breath Away.


Understanding Armenia

Clemency Pleming | 3 Feb 2016

There are three weeks remaining to visit an exhibition of Armenian artefacts which have gone on display for the first time at the Weston Library.

Professor Theo van Lint of the Oriental Institute at Oxford University and Robin Meyer of the Faculty of Classics have curated the display of items from the Bodleian Libraries' Armenian collections, in the first major UK exhibition to focus on Armenian culture in 15 years. The exhibition spans over 2000 years of Armenian history and culture, from the pre-Christian era to the genocide in the early 20th century.

'It's interesting to move from an academic perspective to consider the general public’s knowledge and interest in Armenia,' said Robin Meyer. 'For instance, the ‘Narek’ - the work of an 10th century poet - might not seem accessible, but when people learn that it’s still known and revered today – even learnt by heart – that is something interesting.'

The Narek is a work of poetry by Gregory of Narek, an Armenian saint. The exhibition features an 18th-century printed copy which has been lent by a British Armenian family, for whom the book serves as a 'Saint of the House'. It is kept wrapped in layers of silk and cloth together with other objects of reverence.

'Every step of the process of curation is informative,' said Professor van Lint. 'It involves conservation, publishing, and craftsmanship – for instance, we commissioned cradles to hold the books on display without damaging them.'

The exhibition includes books spanning several millennia, including one which records the earliest known poem in the Armenian language.

The poem, which is recorded in Movsēs Xorenac‘i’s History of the Armenians, recounts the birth of Vahagn, a god of war and part of the Armenian Zoroastrian pantheon. Very few fragments of pre-Christian Armenian poetry survive, and the 'Song of Vahagn', which describes the god's fiery hair and beard, bears some interesting resemblances to Iranian and Indian myths.

2015 marks the centenary of the genocide perpetrated against the Armenian people during World War I.

'Although we've used the anniversary of the genocide as the occasion for this exhibition, we didn’t want just to mourn, but also to use the full wealth of the collections to celebrate thousands of years of Armenian history and culture,' says Professor van Lint.

'We wanted to show that this is a country and a people that has been crucial to the development of culture and trade, and has just as rich and complex a culture as Russia or Italy, for instance, but which is much less well known in Britain.

'Armenia straddles East and West, it exists between Christian and Muslim countries, and there is a depth of human understanding borne out of existing in different circumstances there.

'Christianity underpins Armenian self-perception but there are a number of other influences: I think it’s particularly interesting that there is often a flavour of Zoroastrianism in some of the iconography, particularly with reference to the quality and treatment of light.

'We made an effort to "catch people out" with things they might not expect from a library exhibition,' said Meyer.

As well as books and manuscripts, the exhibition also includes a delicate altar-curtain embroidered in silver and a priest’s staff in the characteristic T-shape, ornamented with snakes. One display case focuses on the pigments used to illuminate books, including gold, plants and poisonous minerals.

'I certainly wouldn’t say that we chose unattractive books and manuscripts, but we didn’t want to select only the ones which immediately spring to mind,' Meyer says.

'We wanted to show the breadth of what has survived over the ages: things which are not just beautiful, but also quite moving. For instance, we have a large handwritten manuscript tracking the history of a family, which was found in 1917 and ends quite abruptly.

'This has not been fully studied, in part because the handwriting is quite difficult to decipher, but there is a lot to learn about the history of the village, including mention of feasts between Muslims and Christians, and other practices which cross boundaries in unexpected ways.'

The free exhibition Armenia: Treasures from an Enduring Culture runs at the Weston Library until 28th February 2016, and is accompanied by a series of public lectures.

Natalie Clein

Renowned cellist Natalie Clein has joined the University as Director of Musical Performance in the Music Faculty.

Ms Klein, who has been appointed for a four year term, regularly performs in Oxford’s major music venues, most recently performing the complete Bach cello suits in the Sheldonian Theatre.

As Director of Musical performance, she will take a leading role in concert programming, developing new artistic projects, and introducing new modes of teaching.

This will begin with a Bach project in autumn 2016 and visits from a number of leading contemporary composers.

The Faculty of Music at Oxford University is delighted to announce the appointment of cellist Natalie Clein as its Director of Musical Performance for the next four years.

The wider community in Oxford will also benefit from Ms Clein’s new position. On 1 June this year she will give a recital of Debussy, Kodály, Kurtág, Britten and Prokofiev with pianist Christian Ihle Hadland.

'Ever since I first visited Oxford as a student and then later as a professional cellist performing at the Sheldonian, Holywell and Jacqueline du Pré, it has occupied a place of great significance in my consciousness, both intellectually and artistically,' she said.

'So it is with great excitement that I take on this newly created position. My ambition over the next four years is to bring students, international artists and academics from across the cultural spectrum together in dialogue and a spirit of discovery.'

Michael Burden, Chairman of the Music Faculty, said: 'Natalie brings with her a wealth of experience and has already inspired an unprecedented response among the students.

'The integrity of her playing speaks for itself. Her time at the University has already been artistically productive for everyone who has the opportunity to work with her.'

Humanities digital

'Humanities and the Digital Age' is the topic of this year’s Annual Headline Series in The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH).

Over the next year, academics and practitioners from many different disciplines will discuss the relationship between the humanities, machines and technology.

The first event takes place tomorrow evening with a debate about what it means to be human in the digital age.

It will bring together a panel of experts from across the Humanities and the cultural sector to examine how the digital age has shaped, and will continue to shape, the human experience and the humanities.

The speakers will be Diane Lees CBE (Director-General of Imperial War Museum Group), Professor Emma Smith (Fellow and Tutor in English, University of Oxford), Dr Chris Fletcher (Professorial Fellow at Exeter College, Member of the English Faculty and Keeper of Special Collections at the Bodleian Library), and Tom Chatfield (author and broadcaster). The discussion will be chaired by Dame Lynne Brindley (Master, Pembroke College and Former Chief Executive, British Library).

It will be held at 5.30pm in the Mathematical Institute on the University’s Radcliffe Observatory Quarter. For those who cannot attend in person, the event will be live-streamed.

Dr Chris Fletcher, Keeper of Special Collections at the Bodleian Libraries, will discuss the continued and even increasing interest in the analogue form of the word – whether printed book or archival manuscript – as well as the vibrant cultures of the digital in libraries and the challenges of digital preservation.

Are we in danger of losing the history of the future, and how do we preserve and make it available to present and future generations of scholars?

Dr Emma Smith of the Faculty of English Language and Literature will ask whether in this modern age we will lose our 'ability to forget'.

'My talk considers this as a particular problem of the internet age, and, contrary to claims that we should be preserving and archiving more and more data, makes a case for the creative possibilities of digital obsolescence,' she says.

'I discuss the ways digital recording and archiving of theatre productions threatens something intrinsic to theatre itself, and think about the ways that the right to be forgotten, currently articulated around discharged criminal convictions or youthful indiscretions, might be something to embrace more fully as we think about the art of the digital age.'

Diane Lees, Director-General of the Imperial War Museum in London, will explain how digital tools have helped the Museum’s research and public engagement, focusing on crowd-sourcing projects like Lives of the First World War and The American Air Museum website.

Tom Chatfield, an author and commentator on digital culture, will explore our relationships with machines and technology. 'If we wish to understand our own natures, machines aren’t going to solve our problems or even point us in the right direction,' he says.

'And if we wish to build not only better machines, but better relationships with and through machines, we need to start talking far more richly about the qualities of these relationships; how precisely our thoughts and feelings and biases operate; and what it means to aim beyond efficiency at lives worth living.'

Chinese art

Free public lectures on the history of Chinese art begin tomorrow.

The Slade Lectures will this year be given by Wu Hung, a specialist in East Asian art at the University of Chicago.

He is the Harrie A. Vanderstappen Distinguished Service Professor of Art History and East Asian Languages and Civilizations and Director of the Centre for the Art of East Asia in Chicago.

Professor Hung's lecture series is titled 'Feminine Space: An Untold Story of Chinese Pictorial Art'.

There will be a lecture every Wednesday at 5pm in the Mathematical Institute on the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, beginning at 5pm. There will also be an informal lecture on Professor Hung’s own experience of curating contemporary Chinese art on Monday 29th February.

Craig Clunas, Professor of the History of Art at the University of Oxford, says: 'It is a great pleasure to welcome Professor Wu Hung of the University of Chicago, one of the world's leading scholars of Chinese art, to deliver this year's public Slade Lecture series in Oxford.

'Wu Hung has written extensively on Chinese art from ancient times to the contemporary art scene, always bringing fresh and exciting ideas to the subject in a way which is accessible to non-specialists.

'His free lectures on the development of Chinese painting from the point of view of 'feminine space' will be of interest to anyone concerned with the visual arts.'

The full timetable of this year's Slade Lectures is available here.


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