In 1964, when Dorothy Podber, an East Village performance artist, walked into Andy Warhol’s Factory, pulled out a pistol, and shot a bullet through a stack of newly finished Marilyn Monroe silkscreens, did she become a collaborator and co-author of the work?
Art history certainly hasn’t labeled her as such — I would be surprised if you knew Podber as the self-described “witch” who staged happenings across New York in the 1960s.
What art history does remember in recountings of the works’ backstory is that day as just another wild occurrence in a string of many Warholian afternoons. The artist was known, after all, to host a motley crew of Village artists, activists, and anarchists (including the radical feminist Valerie Solanas, who would also bring a gun to the Factory, in order to shoot her host,) whose antics became almost an extension of his work.
What is ironic, given the discourse around the images, is that Podber’s intervention into these canvases was actually utterly un-Warholian: From works whose raison d’etre was to be reproduced ad infinitum, she made unique art. (Ironic, too, that her actions make these works rare and, therefore, more valuable on the market.)
Completely distinct from when Mary Richardson, an early 20th-century suffragette, slashed Valazquez’s Rokeby Venus in the National Gallery in London, Podber’s actions were not a mistake, a political act, or a rebellion. That she did this with intention, as an artist, makes an argument for her co-authorship.
The act of mock-assassination, shooting the image of Marilyn Monroe between the eyes, comments on the rabidity — and sometimes violence — of celebrity worship, and Monroe’s own death by fame-induced suicide two years before adds eerie depth to Podber’s performance piece. However, Podber’s intervention lives on only in the titles of the four works: “Shot Sage Marilyn,” “Shot Orange Marilyn,” etc.
So why is her intervention considered a reflection of Warhol rather than Warhol’s work as an element of Podber’s performance? Why aren’t the shot Marilyns works by Podber, or at the very least, authored by both artists?
After all, we have precedent for this type of act, art historical examples that allow original authorship to be subsumed by the one who intervenes. Robert Rauschenberg’s “Erased DeKooning Drawing,” for example, is considered a Rauschenberg. Ai Wei Wei’s Han dynasty urns painted with Coca-Cola logos are also considered the contemporary artist’s work, not the ancient potters’.
Warhol’s work itself – provocative, relevant, and easily digestible – continues to be fertile ground for appropriation and intervention. The collective MSCHF, for example, created 999 copies of a Warhol drawing and sold them — each a “Possibly Real Copy” — alongside the original, which they cannot identify themselves. In this instance, the collective was successful in reassigning authorship.
Podber, however, has had no such luck despite her bold refashioning of one of the world’s best-known images. When “Shot Sage Marilyn” goes to auction this month, where it’s expected to break a record for the most expensive 20th-century painting, it will be as a Warhol silkscreen, an ascription that fails to tell the work’s full story.
Artist Minouk Lim wants to offer a very different perspective on how one might deal with a grim history whose effects continue to be felt in the present.
This week: Should Washington have a national memorial for gun violence? Have cats used us to take over the world? What is Cluttercore? And more.
Organizers, artists, and land practitioners are holding public events at Iglesias Garden in a hub space supported by the Climate Justice Initiative, a project of Mural Arts Philadelphia.
The artist’s style blends aesthetic and cultural elements from Ghana, London, and New York’s graffiti scenes.
Workers told Hyperallergic that they were tired of meager pay and a lack of job security.
Jo Sandman / TRACES opens with a reception for the artist on June 3 at Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center in Asheville, North Carolina.
Authorities say Jean-Luc Martinez helped facilitate the Louvre’s purchase of objects illegally pillaged during the Arab Spring.
The suspects attempted to take a Basquiat artwork valued at $45,000 from Taglialatella Galleries but instead made off with a half-empty bottle of whiskey.
Funding MFAs and all full-time graduate degrees, the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans supports immigrants and the children of immigrants in the US.
From music and architecture to comedy and horror, these films showcase Ukrainian culture and its long-held ethos of resistance.
The artists showcased in Archival Intimacies examine the colonial trauma’s impact on Asian Americans and search for ways to overcome it.
Eiffel inadvertently paints its protagonist not as a great man worthy of scrutiny or praise, but as the Elon Musk of his day.