David Bowie once said, ‘I think it’s the most derogatory thing I can say about something: “God, it’s so fucking Croydon.”’ David Bowie also wrote a song called ‘Andy Warhol’. And, coincidentally, this September is Warhol Month in Croydon. Was Warhol born in Croydon, you ask? No, no he was not. In fact, it’s unlikely he ever set foot in the place. But 2017 does mark the thirtieth anniversary of the artist’s death. And when someone hands your borough 15 minutes (or 30 days) of fame, you do not question why. Maybe ‘Ronnie Corbett Month’ just didn’t have the same ring to it (Ronnie did have a CR postcode, in case you were wondering).
But there are some (loose) parallels between Warhol and Croydon. Back in the 1960s, when he was redefining modernism in art, Croydon was being transformed by brutalism. ‘Warhol broke away from the boundaries that previously existed, something that Croydon was doing around the same time,’ says Kevin Zuchowski-Morrison, CEO of Croydon’s RiseGallery, which is behind Warhol Month. ‘In the 1960s Croydon really grasped the nettle in terms of post-war construction. Not everyone loves all of the brutalist architecture that went up here but everyone has an opinion about it, and it contributes to the distinctive look and feel of the borough.’ It’s all a bit of a reach, but it is true that the futuristic design of the 50p Building wouldn’t look out of place in a pop art print.
Warhol Month HQ is Croydon’s emerging Cultural Quarter in St George’s Walk, where RiseGallery will be showing a free exhibition of his work. Outdoor mural tributes by The Dotmasters and ‘Popaganda’ artist Ron English will illuminate Croydon’s streets at night while the suburb’s recently saved arthouse haunt, The David Lean Cinema, will screen films like ‘Chelsea Girls’, Warhol’s unedited cult film experiment.
There’s enough art happening down south that Bowie’s putdown is almost starting to sound like a compliment.
See the full Warhol Month programme here.
Not willing to travel to Croydon? Here are some autumn art exhibitions to get excited about.
Image: Campbell's Soup by Andy Warhol, licensed by Dreamtime