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WARHOL’S MOST WANTED: The Andy Warhol scandal at the 1964 World’s Fair in Queens, N.Y., is being revisited. An exhibit entitled “13 Most Wanted Men: Andy Warhol and the 1964 World’s Fair” opens Saturday at the Queens Museum, in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the 1964 World’s Fair. When Warhol was commissioned to do a mural for the Philip Johnson-designed New York State Pavilion at the fair, he chose to enlarge mug shots from a New York City Police booklet of the state’s most wanted criminals of 1962. It was like a big chessboard of front and profile views, installed April 22, 1964. Three days later, just before the fair opened, the mural was painted over in silver so all that was visible to crowds was a 20-by-20-foot silver square.
“Gov. Nelson Rockefeller and Robert Moses thought it was inappropriate to have images of criminals in a public setting,” said Tom Finkelpearl, executive director of the Queens Museum. “These were America’s most wanted men, and another worry was that the majority were Italian and it could have been seen as anti-Italian. It was a big brouhaha.” After his mural was painted over, a tongue-in-cheek Warhol suggested replacing it with 25 Robert Moses portraits. The idea was nixed.
This story first appeared in the April 22, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The exhibit runs through Sept. 7 before traveling to the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, which collaborated on the show. It includes a set of paintings of the same criminals that Warhol did in the summer of 1964 with the screens he used to make the mural, as well as portraits of Jacqueline Kennedy and Rockefeller, some of Warhol’s film portraits, photos of Warhol’s Factory, items from the Warhol Museum and archival materials detailing Warhol’s World’s Fair project and scandal. “Andy Warhol’s only public art project ended up a complete fiasco,” Finkelpearl said.
The Queens Museum, which was expanded last year, is located in the New York City Building, next to the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.