‘Secret piety’: new show reveals Andy Warhol’s Catholic roots

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He is celebrated for his Marilyn Monroe and Campbell’s Soup prints, legendary parties, arrogant queerness and worship of celebrity.

But Andy Warhol was raised by a devout Catholic parent with whom helium prayed regular passim the 2 decades successful which they shared a New York home. The chaotic prince of popular creation went to church, met the pope and financed his nephew’s studies to go a priest.

“Warhol some flaunted and obscured his religion and his sexuality,” said Carmen Hermo, the organiser of Andy Warhol: Revelation, opening astatine the Brooklyn Museum adjacent month. The exhibition’s absorption connected Warhol’s religion successful narration to his creation “provides an accidental to unpack the poignant and precise quality contradictions that functioned arsenic 1 of the drivers of his creation production”.

Warhol, calved into a working-class migrant family, attended St John Chrysostom Byzantine Catholic religion successful Pittsburgh passim his childhood. “He often went to 4 lengthy services implicit a weekend, and spent a batch of clip staring astatine spiritual icons. They were a progenitor of his hundreds of images of Marilyn Monroe, dozens of Jackie O, the icons of American civilization and celebrity,” said Hermo.

In New York, Warhol rapidly became a cult fig connected the exploding popular creation country and avidly chronicled his ain beingness done audio, photography and video decades earlier societal media was invented.

“By 1968, helium was the Warhol that galore radical contiguous cognize and love, astatine the centre of an unthinkable country of rock’n’roll, drug-using misfits, and with an ‘everybody is welcome’ attack to creation satellite socialisation,” said Hermo.

The anchor of his beingness was his mother, Julia – besides an artist, devoutly spiritual and a almighty power – to whom helium returned aft chaotic parties astatine his silver-painted studio, the Factory. Her drawings of angels are included successful the exhibition.

In 1968, Warhol had a near-death acquisition erstwhile helium was changeable successful his workplace by Valerie Solanas. “For the remainder of his life, helium was affected physically, successful pain, wearing aesculapian corsets regular – but besides spiritually, by galore accounts,” said Hermo. The creator accrued his visits to church, served meals to stateless radical and met Pope John Paul II successful 1980.

In a eulogy aft Warhol’s decease successful 1987, the creation historiographer John Richardson said his spiritual broadside was the cardinal to his psyche. “The cognition of this concealed piety inevitably changes our cognition of an creator who fooled the satellite into believing that his lone obsessions were money, fame, glamour,” helium said.

The accumulation includes a figurine of Jesus painted by Warhol arsenic a child, a 1950s sketchbook unfastened astatine a sensual enactment drafting of a antheral ft surrounded by ineffable bosom votives, and galore works from his bid based connected Leonardo da Vinci’s mural The Last Supper, a people of which hung successful Warhol’s puerility home. His epic 1966 movie The Chelsea Girls, which contains a repeated confessional motif, volition beryllium screened doubly a day.

Warhol’s narration with his religion was inevitably analyzable by his sexuality, said Hermo. “There are paintings that bring a bodybuilder’s signifier into the loving arms of Christ. You spot the 2 opposing forces successful 1 person. Sometimes it was precise overt, sometimes it was precise metaphorical.”

The rubric of the amusement – archetypal curated by José Carlos Diaz astatine the Andy Warhol Museum successful Pittsburgh earlier the pandemic – “says it all,” said Hermo. “It is simply a revelation: an under-known facet of Warhol. There are truthful galore themes the nationalist has grown to emotion astir Warhol – the emergence of personage culture, the repetition of icons of consumerism, the decease and catastrophe series. But this shows a thread betwixt each these works: his creation done the lens of Catholicism.”