Little could cement Andy Warhol’s status as the world’s number-one free-floating, all-purpose signifier of “the art world” more convincingly than the recent publication of Where’s Warhol? by Catharine Ingram and Andrew Rae just a couple of weeks ago by Laurence King.
The playful, dense book is an obvious homage to the Where’s Waldo? series of books by Martin Handford that were an enormous sensation in the 1980s and 1990s. (In the U.K., where the books originated, the books were called Where’s Wally?)
A fact that was most likely not as easily apprehended as Waldo’s red-and-white winter hat was that Handford’s books represented a culmination of an artistic tradition known as the “Wimmelbilderbuch,” a German term that is roughly translated as “teeming picture book.” Richard Scarry was probably the most popular practitioner of the Wimmelbilderbuch, but the tradition has surprisingly deep roots, encompassing such visionary geniuses as Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Brueghel the Elder.
The creators of Where’s Warhol? appear to be acutely aware of the Wimmelbilderbuch tradition, as one of their most enchanting spreads is a riff on Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights, retitled simply “The Garden of Artistic Delights”:
The tableau is simply overflowing with references to the art world. Just in a few seconds I can spot references to Basquiat, Haring, Dalí, Koons, Michelangelo, Botticelli, and Gilbert & George. I’d love to know what I’m missing!
In each panel, the task is to pore over the image and detect the acknowledged master of pop art, always wearing a white-and-blue striped shirt and always wearing sunglasses (you can usually tell the decoys because they aren’t wearing the sunglasses).
Here’s a marvelous panel with Warhol and some pals at Studio 54:
As Carey Dunne of Hyperallergic points out, the fun of detecting the well-known personages in the panels actually is a pretty decent analogue for Warhol’s own celebrity-drenched life.
Here are a few more of the Where’s Warhol? tableaux for you to gaze at—click on any of them for a (much) larger view. The book is available at Amazon for the reasonable sum of $10.07.
“A Surrealist Night In An Enchanted Forest”
“Groovy Bob’s (that would be London gallerist Robert Fraser) Art Scene”
“Opening of the Frida Kahlo Retrospective at the Galeria de Arte Contemporaneo”