At the Jewish Museum, Andy Warhol’s ‘Marilyn’ and ‘Liz’ as Genius Jews?

THE DAILY PIC: The two stars were Jewish converts. Did that please Warhol?


THE DAILY PIC (#1466): One of the more surprising shows of New York’s winter season is “Becoming Jewish: Warhol’s Liz and Marilyn” at the Jewish Museum, all about the conversion of the two movie stars to Judaism after they fell for Jewish men. It’s no surprise that Andy Warhol also headlines the exhibition: He chose the two converts for some of his most famous Pop pictures. Today’s Pic features one of the portfolio of 10 Marilyn prints that Warhol published in 1967, shown next to the cover of the November, 1956 cover of Modern Screen, featuring both stars’ names.

It’s possible that the two stars’ Jewishness played some tiny part in Warhol’s interest in them. He may have been a closet philosemite. For him, familiarity probably bred affection: His elementary school was 41% Jewish, to service his childhood neighborhood’s big Jewish population – the Warhola family took in Jewish boarders when they were hard up. Ellie Simon, Warhol’s close friend in high school and college, was Jewish, as was Philip Pearlstein, who was another college classmate and then his first and most notable roommate in New York. Sam Rosenberg, a college teacher Warhol was especially fond of, was a Jew, and got Warhol his first and only art-teaching gig at a local Jewish community center. (Warhol flopped.) By 1980, the Jewish art dealer Ronald Feldman had got Warhol to do his ten “Jewish Geniuses” silkscreens. I’ll have to ask Feldman if Warhol ever mentioned Marilyn and Liz as possible subjects for the series. (The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, Founding Collection, Contribution The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. L1998.1.10. © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York)

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