I recently visited The Andy Warhol Museum to take a look at Warhol’s 13 Most Wanted Men (1964) before it was returned to its home in the Queens Museum. I couldn’t miss catching a glimpse of the World’s Fair mural that was so famously painted over with silver paint a few days after its reveal. The exhibit included the individual mug shot prints alongside Warhol’s work that surrounded its production, World’s Fair materials, and newspaper reports of the controversy. In one exhibited interview, in true Warholian fashion, the artist quipped that he liked the painted censorship because “silver is nothing”—one could use it to cover furniture or, in the case of 13 Most Wanted Men, people that one no longer wants to see.
Before I made my way to the Most Wanted Men exhibit, however, I discovered something else. The museum was recently reorganized as a timeline, and thus more comprehensive view, of Warhol’s work. The top floor begins with his early art, including his commercial fashion drawings and blotted line illustrations. This inclusion foregrounds his early kitschy aesthetic that is typically effaced in the portrait of Warhol the Pop Artist. And importantly (for my purposes anyway), the museum’s choice to exhibit this work foregrounds Warhol’s identity as a gay artist. As I explored the top floor, I was delighted to see work like High Heel Shoe and Shoe (“Tony”), but I let out a little gasp of excitement when I turned around and saw the likes of Reclining Male Torso.