Mick was Andy's dreamt-off muse

In each edition of ea. magazine, we discuss an artwork of Erasmus University Rotterdam's collection. This time: a portrait of Mick Jagger by Andy Warhol.

Warhol once said: ‘in the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.’ In our age of selfies, vlogs, and Instagram fame, we can’t help but conclude that Warhol glimpsed at a truth. Already in the 60s, the notion of “fame” was deeply entrenched in our culture. Nowadays, what with the state of social media and reality stardom, the role of fame in our everyday lives has only entrenched itself deeper. Warhol wasn’t averse to that fame – chased it down, even – and thought it a form of art in its own right.

White male gaze?

Mick Jagger’s portrait was bought by Erasmus University Rotterdam in 1986. Warhol made all his portraits in series, and as such, this one, too, is a part of the ‘Jagger’ series. The collage was made in 1975, based on several photographs he’d had of Jagger. Several museums own one of these portraits.

Jagger was one of the many celebrities who featured in Warhol’s work. A typical example of the 'white male gaze' in art? A white man painting a white man? Not quite. Warhol’s queer identity is also a marker in his work: the theatrical elements, bright colours, makeup – these are all signifiers of Warhol’s art. They are found in famous portrait series such as Marilyn Monroe’s or Liz Taylor’s, sure, but even Mao Zedong – as interpreted by Warhol – is depicted in decidedly feminine ways, lipstick and all. In that sense, Jagger as a muse seemed to have stepped straight out of Warhol's dreams: a rockstar who was always exploring his own sexuality. Macho and soft all at once. He celebrated his femininity without losing a single ounce of his masculinity.

That easy androgyny comes through in this work: Jagger and Warhol knew each other before the portrait series was made. In 1971, Warhol – carefully briefed by Jagger – created the album cover for Sticky Fingers by the Rolling tones. It was a record sleeve with a photograph of a man’s crotch in tight jeans, an image that would go on to give the legendary rock-’n-roll album a little undercurrent of homoeroticism.

The collection is expanding

It was 1963 when Erasmus University began putting together its art collection. Initially, the collection had contemporary graphic art as its connective theme. After 2000, the collection expanded to include art forms such as photography, paintings, and installations. The goal? To bring students in connection with art, and to give the university something of an aesthetic.
The main departure point was quality, defined by a certain level of artistry, originality, an art-historical significance, and technical execution. It’s not only famous artists whose work is currently being added to the collection, but also young, talented artists whose work shows promise.

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TEXT: Harriet Duurvoort