In His First TV Ad, Andy Warhol’s the Good Humor Man

THE DAILY PIC: In his first TV ad, the artist sells ice cream by uglifying it.

Exhibition Clip; Revolution of the Eye Modern Art and the Birth of American Television The Jewish Museum May 1 – September 20, 2015; Organized by the Jewish Museum, New York, and the Center for Art, Design, and Visual Culture, University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). Exhibition Curator: Maurice Berger

THE DAILY PIC: This still is from a TV commercial that Andy Warhol made for Schrafft’s diner in the fall of 1968, as one of the first pieces he completed after the attempt on his life that June.

For years, most Warholians have believed that the commercial was lost, so it was a pleasure to come across it in the Jewish Museum show called “Revolution of the Eye: Modern Art and the Birth of American Television”, where it is on loan from the Kramlich Collection.

The piece is an ad for the diner’s “Underground Sundae”, meant to lend the stodgy restaurant a new youth-appeal; it ought to be a perfect example of Warhol’s eager post-shooting sell-out. But rather than give his clients just what they wanted and were paying for, Warhol deliberately included every mistake that one ad could very well contain: Its soundtrack consists of the off-camera noises any normal editor would have cut; its background is made from the medium’s color-test bars, also meant to be removed before broadcast. There’s not a moment when anything appears on screen that you might remotely want to eat.

This is the true model, I think, for Warhol’s sell-out: Take the suckers’ money, and give them the art you feel like making.

And here’s something weird: In that much braver moment in popular culture, this unlikely ad won a  prize.

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