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That Massive Pop Art Exhibit at the Art Institute Debuts This Month

Five highlights from the art museum’s huge new acquisition

When Gold Coast philanthropists Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson donated their $400 million collection of pop art to the Art Institute in April, the culturati looked on in awe. It was the biggest gift in the museum’s 136-year history: 44 masterpieces, including 10 paintings by Andy Warhol and sculptures by Jeff Koons and Charles Ray. “You could not bring these works together again today for any dollar amount,” says curator James Rondeau.

Starting December 13, the entire collection will go on display in an exhibition called The New Contemporary. Here’s a sneak peek.

‘Liz #3’ by Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol, Liz #3, 1963

Photo: The Stefan T. Edlis Collection, partial and promised gift to the Art Institute of Chicago. © 2015 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Edlis and Neeson bought this painting, one of 10 Warhols in the collection, for nearly $32 million in 2014. “She’s epic, glamour, tragedy, product—all rolled into one,” says Rondeau of subject Elizabeth Taylor.

 

‘Untitled (Bolsena)’ by Cy Twombly

Cy Twombly, Untitled (Bolsena), 1969

Photo: The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of Edlis/Neeson Collection. © Cy Twombly Foundation

Edlis and Neeson waited years to buy a work by Twombly because “it had to be a Bolsena,” says Rondeau. “And it had to be this one.”

 

‘Target’ by Jasper Johns

Jasper Johns, Target, 1961

Photo: The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of Edlis/Neeson Collection. © Jasper Johns/Licensed by Vaga, New York, N.Y.

Johns’s ability to turn everyday objects into high art “completely changed the conversation of art in the mid–20th century,” says Rondeau.

 

‘Artist’s Studio: Foot Medication’ by Roy Lichtenstein

Roy Lichtenstein, Artist’s Studio: Foot Medication, 1974

Photo: The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of Edlis/Neeson Collection. © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein

One of four large-scale paintings in the Artist’s Studio series, this piece represents “a studio of the mind,” says Rondeau. The works are autobiographical but also pay homage to Henri Matisse’s 1911 paintings Red Studio and Pink Studio.

 

‘Untitled #92’ by Cindy Sherman

Cindy Sherman, Untitled #92, 1981

Photo: The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of Edlis/Neeson Collection. © Cindy Sherman

Playing with classic images of vulnerable female characters in distress, Sherman “borrows identities and personae” in her self-portraits, says Rondeau.

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