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The Vatican Museums to host exhibition on Andy Warhol’s religious art


Andy Warhol | Fair Use

Zelda Caldwell - published on 01/26/18

The enigmatic artist was a lifelong, practicing Catholic.

The Vatican Museums are finalizing plans to present an exhibition of Andy Warhol’s religious works, according to an article in The Art Newspaper.

The exhibition, which will be seen in Rome and Pittsburgh some time in 2019, will be staged in cooperation with Pittsburgh’s Andy Warhol Museum.

Better known for his iconic prints of Marilyn Monroe and Campbell’s Soup cans, Warhol, was also a lifelong Catholic. His parents, who were Slovakian immigrants, raised him in the Ruthenian rite, an Eastern rite in communion with Rome.

Among the works expected to be exhibited, according to The Art Newspaper, are paintings from Warhol’s Last Supper series (1986) and memento mori silkscreens of skulls.

“We are very interested in exploring the artist’s spiritual side,” said Barbara Jatta, the director of the Vatican Museums.

“It is very, very important for us to have a dialogue with contemporary art. We live in a world of images and the Church must be part of this conversation,” continued Jatta.

Few knew the religious side of the late artist, according to Sharon Matt Atkins, the curator of a 2010 exhibition of Warhol’s religious art.

“Only his closest confidants knew he was a religious person and frequently went to Mass,” Atkins told Reuters.

In an article in Aleteia, Kathy Schiffer, investigated the late artist’s spiritual side, and reported that he lived his life as a faithful Catholic.

“Widely believed to be homosexual, he remained celibate and was, according to his closest associates, still a virgin at the time of his death,” wrote Schiffer.

Warhol was an active philanthropist who supported and regularly volunteered at a soup kitchen operated by the Church of the Heavenly Rest, an Episcopal church on E. 90th Street, in New York City. When his nephew decided he wanted to become a priest, Warhol financed his studies at the seminary.

At the eulogy at Warhol’s funeral art historian John Richardson said that the artist’s faith was key to understanding him.

“I’d like to recall a side of his character that he hid from all but his closest friends: his spiritual side. Those of you who knew him in circumstances that were the antithesis of spiritual may be surprised that such a side existed. But exist it did, and it’s key to the artist’s psyche,” said Richardson.

In the 1980s the spiritual side of Warhol became more evident in his work. The year before he died at 58 years of age, in 1987, Warhol painted more than 100 images inspired by Da Vinci’s “Last Supper.”

Among these were three that are larger than life, measuring 25 feet by 35 feet in length. His spiritual works have an irreverent side, particularly one (pictured above) which juxtaposes a quartet of Christs with a trio of motorcycles, a swooping red eagle and a $6.99 price tag.

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