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No one knows for sure whether American Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein intended his 1961 painting, Look Mickey, to be a prophecy of fame and wealth.
But when the picture was ever-so-carefully unpacked at the Art Gallery of NSW last week, curator Wayne Tunnicliffe had no doubt the story was true.
“Look Mickey — I’ve hooked a big one!!”, Donald Duck says as he casts his fishing line and unknowingly snags his own coat tails.
For Tunnicliffe, the painting was a bold statement by the young New Yorker that he had invented a new art style that would become insanely popular and change his life, as well as the course of art history.
“It’s Lichtenstein realising he’s on to something,” said Tunnicliffe, curator of the AGNSW’s summer blockbuster, Pop to popism.
“People have read that (painting) as Lichtenstein actually doing his first ever Pop painting — ‘Look Mickey, I’ve hooked a big one’. And he had.”
Lichtenstein’s inspiration for Look Mickey was a scene from a 1960 Little Golden Book called Donald Duck, Lost and Found.
Like Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol had also created artworks based on comic books.
“When he saw Lichtenstein’s he said, ‘well, there’s no point in me continuing. Lichtenstein’s doing it better’,” Tunnicliffe said.
“So Warhol goes in a different direction and comes up with his own visual language — the screen printing, the celebrities and the consumer objects.”
Warhol’s famous Campbell’s soup cans are front and centre of Pop to popism, the widest ranging Pop art exhibition ever to be shown in Australia.
The 70 other artists represented in the exhibition include James Rosenquist, Claes Oldenburg, Ed Ruscha, and Australian artists such as Mike Brown and Colin Lanceley who had a Pop art period.
Look Mickey travelled to Sydney by plane with National Gallery of Art, Washington, specialist courier Jesse Clark.
“There are handlers all the way, but to have an individual there is very important,” Clark said.
Pop to popism opens on November 1.
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