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Albertina shows Roy Lichtenstein on his 100th birthday

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Albertina shows Roy Lichtenstein on his 100th birthday

The journey into the artist’s life’s work, comprising over 90 objects, begins with around 30 early pop art paintings based on comics and advertising advertisements. Schröder: “The templates in the comic books cost a few cents, Lichtenstein’s pictures are now insured for 200 million euros.” This is followed by landscapes and enamel signs, art-after-art pictures as well as later interiors, female nudes and sculptures as well as selected drawings and template booklets in which Lichtenstein collected comics and advertisements.

“He grew up with a growing love of art,” recalled Dorothy Lichtenstein, who came to Austria for the exhibition, of her husband, who died in 1997. “He spent a lot of time in museums.” She cited Pablo Picasso as his greatest influence. In the 1960s, at the height of abstract expressionism, Roy Lichtenstein returned to representational, self-reflective art “and with a lot of irony broke down the boundaries between high art and everyday culture,” as Schröder explained. Late, at the age of 39, he became an overnight star. The breakthrough came in 1961 with “Look Mickey,” a comic image cast into the monumental form of a history painting – and shown in the show.

Lichtenstein isolated and monumentalized the comic and brought it into the museum, said curator Gunhild Bauer. “An absurd and ironic gesture,” said Schröder, which the artist countered the prejudice of aloofness that consumer society has of modern art. Reducing Lichtenstein to his comics and advertising images would not be enough. The show “For the 100th Birthday” gives a compact overview of the work: “Because we got everything we wanted, from the icons of the very earliest work to his last paintings,” emphasized Schröder in the APA interview. “In terms of early work, we managed to obtain some very important works from private collections, including some that have never been awarded or are actually no longer awarded.” Attention should also be drawn to Lichtenstein’s underexposed sculptural work.

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The retrospective was created in collaboration with the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation, founded by Dorothy Lichtenstein after the death of her husband. She donated 95 objects, including brushstroke sculptures, preliminary drawings, collages and ceramics, worth 38 million euros to the Albertina in 2023.

Roy Lichtenstein, who fused high art with low art, had to endure accusations of commercialization from art critics, an accusation “that is completely wrong,” as Schröder explained. “Because he does nothing other than be a portraitist. If in the 17th century the portrait of society could be read in the face of a Rembrandt painting, in the second half of the 20th century it can only be seen in the desubjectification, as if this art had been painted by a machine, in the reproduction of the Clichés.”

(SERVICE – “Roy Lichtenstein – On his 100th birthday”, exhibition in the Albertina, March 8th – July 14th, daily 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., Wed and Fri 10 a.m. – 9 p.m., )

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