Andy Warhol’s exhibition, titled 13 Most Wanted Men, didn’t raise eyebrows when it was reviewed for submission to the 1964 New York World’s Fair. But organizers soon balked at his 20-by-20-foot mural depicting the mugshots of the 13 most wanted criminals of 1962. “The only thing visitors could see when the fair officially opened to the public was a coat of silver pain.” On the 50th anniversary of the festivities, canvases depicting nine of the 13 most wanted men are the focus of an exhibition titled “13 Most Wanted Men: Andy Warhol and the 1964 World’s Fair” at the Queens Museum in New York.
What’s the Big Idea?
Ever the shrewd businessman, Warhol knew that the buzz created by the reaction to his work would make his mural a commodity. He returned to his studio to recreate the large work as smaller paintings, which soon sold off quickly. As for his reaction to the original censorship, Warhol was far from mortified. “In one way I was glad the mural was gone,” he wrote in his 1980 autobiography, “now I wouldn’t have to feel responsible if one of the criminals ever got turned in to the FBI because someone had recognised him from my pictures.”