When POP opens as the new special exhibit at the Audain Art Museum on Sat. June 30, it will mark the first time a piece by Andy Warhol is shown publicly in Whistler ... well, mostly likely.
"I'm going out on a limb here," says Curtis Collins, director and chief curator at the museum, with a laugh. "(It's) potentially the most recognizable artist and most recognizable piece in the show."
The exhibit will feature a total of 37 works borrowed from the Smithsonian American Art Museum collection, ranging from Warhol's famous Marilyn Monroe to Robert Indiana's "LOVE" and Claes Oldenburg's slices of pizza.
"For the most part it's all prints: screen prints and lithographs," Collins says. "The exhibition as a whole really speaks to that moment in the 1960s in the United States where pop art really emerged in a very concerted fashion and quite quickly, both in a public gallery context and within a commercial context."
Pop art rose to prominence in contemporary art when artists began using simplistic images plucked from everyday life as a way to comment on society—its obsession with glamour and consumerism. At the time, it shook up the art world by blurring the lines between popular culture and high art.
Tapping into the nature of the genre, the museum will have a "selfie corner" where visitors can snap a photo with a Roy Lichtenstein-like thought bubble. (His images are the comic book-like paintings that use dots to create faces and include word and thought bubbles.)
"(We aim) to be in tune with what viewers want, how they can be part of the exhibition—but being cognizant of the fact that this is a great promotional tool," Collins says.
Visitors will also be able to carry on to a secondary section of the exhibit called Canada Goes Pop, a room dedicated to the work of Canadian artists who have gleaned inspiration from the movement.
It will include t-shirts emblazoned with Shawn Hunt's image of a First Nations' Northwest Coast raven carrying a Warhol-esque soup can; work by Vancouver artist Paul Wong; and Sonny Assu's cereal boxes that feature recognizable brands with an Indigenous twist.
"We've put together our own series of work from collections from B.C.," Collins says. "(It) looks at the repercussions of the pop art aesthetic in a contemporary Canadian art context."
While the exhibit was organized by former chief curator Darren Martens, who moved on from the position last month, it marks the first special exhibit that Collins has overseen in his new role as head of the museum.
He and curatorial assistant Esther Weng were tasked with installing it. "To be candid, that's the most fun part of being a curator," he says. "Essentially, what you get to do—in a passive and subconscious way—is move people through an artistic experience. So you can be very strategic about what they witness and how they progress their understanding of, in this case, pop art."
The opening will kick off on June 30 with Collins and the artist Paul Wong offering a public tour of the exhibit.
"I'll be giving the formal art history part and Paul Wong, as an artist who used many pop art strategies in his work in 20-odd years, will be inserting his perspective in not only the American work and pop art from the Smithsonian, but also Canadian works ... Paul's great because he'll have some gossip about artists from Canada. It will be a very appealing tour both for those who want a historical look at the exhibition, but also an inside perspective on what it's like to be an artist."
That tour will take place on Saturday, June 30 from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. with the cost of admission. POP will run until Sept. 17.