He was known at the Pope of Pop and Women’s Wear Daily called him the Leonardo da Vinci of Madison Avenue, but all Andy Warhol really wanted was to be famous — and important.

He achieved both, but they came mostly after his death in 1987.

Now a major exhibition of about 80 of Warhol’s works — including some of his famous silk screen prints — is going on show at Johannesburg’s Wits Arts Museum.

Warhol’s prolific output has established him as one of the 20th century’s most important, ground-shifting and antiestablishment artists.

As far back as the 1960s, Warhol understood the power of the media to confer celebrity status — hence his well-known quote that “everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes”.

Included in the exhibition are silk screens of famous celebrities of the era, such as Muhammad Ali, Marilyn Monroe and even Mickey Mouse.

Of course, Warhol’s fame as an artist is intimately linked to his silk screens of Campbell’s soup cans, which will also be on show, as will some album covers he designed and images from the covers of Interview magazine, which he founded in 1969.

There is also Birmingham Race Riot, which was taken from newspaper photographs of police dogs attacking African-American protesters during the Birmingham civil rights campaign in the 1960s.

The pieces on show are from the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Collection. They are brought to SA as part of the bank’s Art in Our Communities programme.

Warhol Unscreened: Artworks from the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Collection Wits Art Museum, July 26 to October 8

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