Skip to main content

Birmingham Race Riot by Andy Warhol

Birmingham Race Riot by Andy Warhol
Accession Code: wu0194
Title: Birmingham Race Riot
Date completed: 1964
Medium: Prints
Location Name: Millburn House
Location Floor:1

© The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / DACS, London 2014

This print is part of a portfolio of 10 screenprints, published in an edition of 500 by Wadsworth Athenaeum, Hartford, Connecticut. These prints by leading American artists of the 1960s, demonstrate how appropriate the medium was for the hard edged style of post-painterly abstraction.

The prints were commissioned by Sam Wagstaff, Curator of the Wadsworth Athenaeum. He said that he wanted people 'to get as big a hunk of the current aesthetic as they could as cheaply as possible'. Wagstaff asked each artist to provide a design; a proof was returned to them for approval and/or adjustment.

The work of Andy Warhol signals the coming of the consumer age and the development of a mass culture that both reflects and shapes contemporary life. This image is drawn from a newspaper photograph of a riot in 1960s America where black people were still segregated from white people. It has been recreated as a silkscreen print that typifies Andy Warhol's adaptation of the medium of mass communication for his work and his questioning of the boundaries of art.

When accepting the commission for this print, Warhol was keen to make each copy slightly different but the printers refused, saying that it had taken their technicians years to learn that all works in an edition should be identical; to do otherwise in a series of this size (500) would have been impossible.