ST. PETERSBURG — If the Velvet Underground songs pouring out of the Dali Museum’s front entrance didn’t give it away Thursday morning, the museum staffers in white-blond bowl cut wigs and red-rimmed glasses did.
Days earlier, the Dali’s public relations team had summoned area news media to the museum to announce an upcoming exhibit featuring works of a major artist, but wouldn’t say who. On Thursday morning, it quickly became apparent the artist is Andy Warhol, and his works will serve as the inaugural installation of the museum’s series on the Avant Garde.
The exhibit, titled “Warhol: Art. Fame. Mortality.,” will include about 100 works from the pop artist on loan from the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. The works will include paintings, drawings, sculpture, photographs and films. Among them will be 10 of Warhol’s famous screen tests of notorious pop culture figures, which includes a video close-up of Dali.
“Dali and Warhol are very strange brothers,” said Hank Hine, the museum’s director. “Maybe uncle and nephew. Certainly not father and son.”
“If Dali appropriated mass culture and popular media to deliver his message, then Warhol took mass culture and popular media as his message, as the source of his art,” Hine said.
The two artists were starkly different in many regards, but they also had striking similarities — including a penchant for surrounding themselves with bizarre entourages. Both worked with innovative musicians. For Dali, it was Alice Cooper. For Warhol, it was Lou Reed, who died last month.
The two artists also strove to compel the public to think differently about art. They met several times. Warhol visited Dali at his hotel suite, and Dali was known to visit The Factory, Warhol’s workspace.
The upcoming exhibit “explores how Warhol learned from Dali’s public visibility and was attuned to the images derived from mass culture,” the Dali museum stated in a news release.
“They both were kind of self-transformative personalities and they both did things in art which transformed our understanding of it, and in that sense there’s kind of a dialogue there,” said William Jeffett, who curated the exhibit.
‘Warhol: Art. Fame. Mortality.” opens Jan. 18 and will run for 3 1/2 months.
Hine said the Warhol exhibit could draw at least 50,000 additional visitors to the downtown St. Petersburg museum, and he hopes many of those will be local residents.
“We hope as well it will excite our local audiences, regional audiences,” he said. “We don’t want to do shows that are gratuitous, that are famous artists, but are not related to this idea of the avant garde, to invention, and to experiment.”