It was a good time to boogie in Kuala Lumpur recently, as two events in the same week recaptured the decadent eras of 1960s and 1970s.
First, there was Andy Warhol: Social Circus exhibition, which paid tribute to the late influential American artist (1928-1987).
Organised by Singapore’s Ryan Foundation, the exhibit is held at Slate at The Row. It is free admission and ends on Sept 18, so hurry if you haven’t visited!
Yours truly attended its opening night on Sept 2, and was bowled over by its immersive and playful environment. It helped that the atmosphere on opening night was very carnival-like; besides pop corn and candy floss kiosks, there was a food truck parked outside to serve guests!
Featuring 50 works from Warhol’s illustrious career and life, the exhibit showcases a rare collection of Warhol polaroids featuring actors, artists and fashion designers such as Warhol himself, Andre Leon, Bianca Jagger and Martha Graham.
This exhibition, curated by Singaporean art collector Ryan Su of the Ryan Foundation, also features loans from private collections and galleries to illustrate Warhol’s diverse work, including his famous silkscreens.
As part of the exhibit, visitors can create silkscreen prints just like how Warhol did in his studio The Silver Factory in New York.
It spans two floors; one can start your journey on the first floor by viewing original Polaroids taken by Warhol himself – including portraits of Bianca (Mick Jagger’s wife at that time), and even a self-portrait (or “selfie”) in his trademark silver wig and black sunglasses. Polaroids were an integral step in his creative process as they formed the basis of his commissioned portraits – all thanks to the Polaroid camera’s more-than-perfect effect of conveniently leaving out blemishes and imperfections in the age before Photoshop.
Its most prominent furniture piece is the Red Sofa, which is also The Silver Factory’s centrepiece and salvaged from the roadside. This is a rare treat for visitors, as there exist only a few replicas in the world. There is at least one other, and it is at the Andy Warhol museum in the United States.
A main highlight in KL is the Silver Room which pays homage to Warhol’s Silver Clouds; visitors can enter the room to play with foil balloons. At the time of the creation, Warhol remarked: “I thought that the way to finish off painting for me would be to have a painting that floats, so I invented the floating silver rectangles that you fill up with helium and let out of your windows.”
Then there was the 26th anniversary of Moda (Malaysian Official Designers Association), held at Publika Shopping Gallery, KL.
An annual event which gathers homegrown designers, this year’s theme was Studio 54.
For the uninitiated – or those too young to remember – Studio 54 was an infamous nightclub in New York, which heyday was between 1977 and 1979. One New Year’s eve saw an event planner dumping four tons of glitter on its floor, which owner Ian Schrager described as like “standing on stardust” and left glitter that could be found months later in guests’ clothing and homes.
Frequent regulars at Studio 54 included Warhol, Liza Minnelli, Elizabeth Taylor, Halston, Debbie Harry, Grace Jones, Michael Jackson, Elton John, Tina Turner, Truman Capote, Freddie Mercury, Diana Ross, Al Pacino, Cher and David Bowie.
For Moda’s event, the works of 50 designers were showcased on mannequins. There was also Samsung Young Designer’s Award, a competition to discover the next great Malaysian couturier.
Ever the daring fashionista, Moda president Gillian Hung wore an Afro wig to deliver her welcoming speech.
Other industry folks came dressed in their retro best; my Bernard Chandran jumpsuit certainly came in handy. With her tousled hairdo and shimmering dress, actress Carmen Soo shone the brightest.
These two events encapsulated the fabulousness of the past. It also shows how fashion and art – when done passionately – can remain so timeless.