Michael Chow at the Warhol Museum: Painter as Gastronome

THE DAILY PIC: The founder of the Mr. Chow restaurants started as an artist.

Michael Chow, Untitled (1962). Courtesy of the artist.


THE DAILY PIC (#1522): This untitled painting was made in London in 1962 by an emigre Chinese art student named Michael Chow, just a few years before he launched his career as owner of the famous Mr. Chow restaurants. In the 1970s and 80s, those became high-end art-world haunts that attracted the likes of Andy Warhol—whose eponymous museum in Pittsburgh is now hosting the exhibition called Michael Chow aka Zhou Yinghua: Voice for My Father.

Given that we know what came later in Chow’s life, it’s hard not to see something a bit … culinary, even epicurean, in his early abstraction. And let’s not forget, as the critic Christopher Knight has pointed out, that just a few years earlier the Abstract Expressionists of the New York School were referring to their paint as “soup”, while Warhol was launching his own soup (cans) the very year of Chow’s abstraction.

Chow’s 1962 painting looks impressively up-to-speed with what was going on in the art world at that moment—it even has a touch of Pop Art in its look and its use of house paint as its medium. So should we mourn the change in Chow’s career? Or do we need to imagine that the odds are very slight that as a painter he would have had any bigger impact on the culture at large than his restaurants went on to do?

For a full survey of past Daily Pics visit blakegopnik.com/archive.

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