Looking into the mirror

Twelve striking self-portraits of Andy Warhol are displayed in Sheffield until December. 

Andy Warhol, Self-Portrait, 1986 C The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Photo Tate, London, 2012

“People are always calling me a mirror,” said Andy Warhol, the great American artist, “and if a mirror looks into a mirror, what is there to see”? The Graves Gallery seems to have the answer.

“Andy Warhol : Late Self-Portrait” at the Graves Gallery aims at “revealing the many faces of the artist”, said the organizer.

Displaying some of Warhol’s late-life work such as Fright Wig (1986), Self-Portrait in a Dark Suit (1981), and Self-Portrait Strangulation (1978), the entire room is full of melancholy.

Self-portraits, 1976-1986

One of the exhibits that hangs predominantly on the wall facing the entrance is the “fright wig”. The 9ft square sombre self-portrait was made a year before the artist’s death and is worth between $30m and $40m, according to Christie’s, an auction house.

“All these works were made in the period between his nearly fatal shot  in1968 and his death in 1987”, said Bethany Guy, the Museum Assistant, “in additional to his poor health as a child, there is a theme of death in his work”.

Next to the fright wif spreads the “Starngulation(1978)”: obscured by dark colors, Warhol stares desparently into the air while being strangled by  hands of an unseen assailant.

Andy Warhol, Self-Portrait Strangulation, 1978 C The Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Photo Tate, London, 2012 (1)

Living memories 

It also features a batch of audio recordings on the life and profession of Warhol voiced by the artist’s family, friends and lovers. A series of posters of people who had extensive interaction with Warhol throughout his life surround the room.

“Andy Warhol has the best personality”, said John Giorno, Warhol’s friend, sometimes lover, and the star in Warhol’s first film Sleep(1963) in the recording.

“Warhol is not a glamourous figure at all”,said David Bail, the famous photographer in the 60s, “he is percular, he didn’t really exist” in the recorded interview.

The recordings were made by the art historian, Dr Jean Wainwright, who spent years interviewing people who were close to Warhol and who were crucial to his projects.


The exhibition is part of ARTIST ROOMS on Tour, which displays hundreds of contemporary works of art around the country. The works are donated by Sheffield-born art dealer Anthony d’Offay to the nation.


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