Seth Hopkins knew 1960s pop art icon Andy Warhol had an interest in the imagery of the American West when he wrote a thesis about it for a master’s degree in 2005.
But the longtime Booth Western Art Museum director said he did not foresee ever being able to host a multi-faceted show featuring dozens of Warhol’s late-career, Western-themed art pieces.
Hopkins worked with partners for more than two years to gather the pieces seen in the exhibit “Warhol and the West,” he said.
The exhibit opens Sunday, Aug. 25, and runs through Dec. 31. It will be “the first museum exhibition to fully explore Andy Warhol’s love of the West represented in his art, movies, attire, travel and collecting,” a news release stated.
Warhol died in 1987 and Hopkins said the artist’s last major project was a series called “Cowboys and Indians,” which included 14 “iconic Western subjects” that form the “backbone of this major traveling exhibition.”
“The fact he did so much that was Western is very notable,” Hopkins said.
He said his museum already had a few pieces of Warhol’s Western-themed work in its collection. Museum officials then worked with private collectors and The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to bring together about 150 objects the artist owned which “reveal Warhol’s process and some of the most understudied aspects of the artist’s career.”
Hopkins has served as the unique museum’s executive director since 2000.
Along the way, in 2005, Hopkins earned a master’s degree from the University of Oklahoma where his thesis was a 110-page study of Warhol’s Western themes called “Andy Warhol Played Cowboys and Indians.”
A Cartersville family who wished to remain anonymous founded the Booth museum in 2000 to house its 30-year collection of Western American art, presidential letters, Civil War art, movie posters and illustrations.
Hopkins said he first heard about Warhol’s Western-themed works after he first worked in 2000 as museum director and was researching the museum’s collection.
“I ran across these Andy Warhol pieces that were in what otherwise appeared to be a fairly traditional Western art collection,” he said. “I wasn’t aware he had done much that was Western.”
“It seemed like quite an anomaly to me originally that Andy would have been doing much that was Western and that, within a Western collection like we have here at the museum, that we would have Warhol represented,” Hopkins said. “It was like a double anomaly.”
Warhol may be the most recognized popular artist in American history. His early 1960s screen-printed works depicting Campbell soup can labels and Marilyn Monroe routinely are included in images illustrating the changes in America’s cultural worlds during that decade.
However, Hopkins said “even ardent fans” of Warhol “aren’t likely aware that the pop icon loved the West.”
Warhol let his famed paint brush touch numerous images -- from real Westerners like Native American warrior Geronimo to those who benefited from its mythos like the creators of the cowboy-garbed “Howdy Doody” puppet from the 1950s TV show, Hopkins said..
To create the exhibition, Hopkins said the Booth museum also partnered with the Tacoma Art Museum in Tacoma, Washington, which sponsored the publication of a 114-page companion book; and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, which assisted with the logistics of bringing the exhibit pieces together, he said.
Hopkins said he knew those born after Warhol’s death 32 years ago may not be that familiar with the artist.
He said Burger King ran a TV ad during this year’s Super Bowl featuring a video of Warhol unwrapping a hamburger sometime in the 1980s. Hopkins’ 23-year-old son attended a Super Bowl party at which no one recognized the legendary artist, he said.
“While the people in their 60s and 70s that make up our normal audience think of Andy as a newfangled thing and that the kids would be all knowledgeable or know about it or be fans of it, it’s really the people in their 40s or 50s who are kind of in awe of him and grew up around his art,” Hopkins said.
“At the same time, he is the best-known artist in the history of American art. His name is the most recognizable, his art’s the most recognizable.
“The fact that he did anything Western would be notable within the Western art world, but the fact that he did so much that was Western is very notable.
“People aren’t aware of it because his output was so big and so much and in so many different subjects, it’s hard to remember or perceive even what he did that was Western until it[s pulled out separately like we did in the exhibition and in the companion book.”
The Booth Museum is at 501 Museum Drive in Cartersville.
For more information and tickets, call 770-387-1300 or visit https://boothmuseum.org/exhibitions/warhol-and-the-west/.