Andy Warhol at Tate Modern

A is for Andy: From the moment you enter Tate’s new Andy Warhol retrospective to be confronted by Sleep (1963), a six-hour film showing Warhol’s lover John Giorno having a big nap, you sense this is going to be a pretty intimate exhibition. I mean sure, all the Pop Art portraits are still there: there’s Marilyn and Dolly and Chairman Mao, there’s Blondie and Jackie O and Elvis, and there’s the fact that very nature of Pop Art and screen-printing itself feels so impersonal. Screen prints aside though, this is a deeply personal show, and one that between the soup cans and the Brillo boxes gives a very real feeling of Andy Warhol the human. And I don’t know if it was his expressive line drawings, the atmospheric Exploding Plastic Inevitable installation or the glass case full of his wigs that closed the exhibition, but it kind of felt as though he was well… there (don’t worry, he wasn’t actually there).

B is for Balloons: Kids will go crazy for Silver Clouds, a recreation of Warhol’s famous installation of metallic balloons from 1966. Described by Warhol as “paintings that float”, the balloons take up an entire room of the exhibition, with visitors encouraged to immerse themselves amongst them, batting them into the air as if they were engaged in some kind of cosmic volleyball game (seriously, the struggle of trying to keep them all in the air at once is real). The balloons are filled with a mixture of helium and air to keep them nice and floaty without sticking to the ceiling, and the result is totally magical. I mean this is basically as ‘soft play’ as a Tate exhibition is ever going to get, and let’s be realistic you’re going to have a really hard time trying to drag your little ones away from them. To be honest I’m not sure why they don’t sell deflated ones in the gift shop…

C is for Cool merch: … which brings me to… the amazing gift shop! Which might be devoid of silver pillow balloons but there’s some pretty cool stuff in there nonetheless. Top picks from the kids’ offer include wooden Brillo Pad blocks, a ‘Meet the Artist: Andy Warhol’ book, various colouring books, a mini Banana puzzle, temporary Banana tattoos, child-sized Banana T-shirts (we got a little bit too excited by the bananas) and some really beautiful prints, including a couple featuring Sam the cat and the gorgeous ‘You are So Little and You are So Big’ – all perfect nursery-wall fodder. Actually the shop itself looks really amazing, with everything beautifully laid out and each of the lights on the six cashiers’ desks bearing a letter from Warhol’s name. You can also check out his fluorescent cow wallpaper in the adjoining exhibition cafe, if you’re so inclined. Moo.

Tickets: £22 per adult with donation; free for under-12s.

Verdict: Obsessed. 4.5/5

Until 6th September 2020

Babu and Bab Dad check out the Exploding Plastic Inevitable installation in the Andy Warhol exhibition, Tate Modern.