in other words

Everything you ever wanted to know about the art market but didn't know who to ask

#59 Andy Warhol: Sex, Death, Beauty and Disaster


Guests Dominique Lévy and Donna De Salvo

BY Charlotte Burns
executive editor of In Other Words

Andy Warhol is one of the best-known—but perhaps least understood—artists of the 20th century. “Warhol shifted the paradigm. He shifted the conversation. That’s why we’re still grappling with him. Love him or hate him,” says Donna De Salvo, the senior curator and deputy director for International Initiatives at the Whitney Museum of American Art, who recently organized the blockbuster exhibition “Andy Warhol—From A to B and Back Again” (on show now at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, until 2 September).

Beyond the glamour of the celebrity and consumerism so often associated with Warhol, there is something destabilizing about his work, says Dominique Lévy, the co-founder of Lévy Gorvy—which is showing “Warhol Women” in New York (until 15 June). “If you spend enough time in front of a Warhol painting, little by little it unnerves you,” Lévy says. 

“When people fetishize the trophy of the Marilyn, they’re missing a certain point of the way that Warhol is constantly disrupting,” De Salvo says: “Whether it’s the off registration of the screen, through the color, through the scale, the multiplicity of images. He’s not about a fixed image. He’s actually quite the opposite and that gets to issues of identity.”

Together with host Charlotte Burns, Lévy and De Salvo discuss the radical aspects of Warhol’s work, discussing how much of it is still undervalued and under-appreciated—particularly drawings from the 1950s and works from the 1970s and 1980s. “He reinvents himself and becomes more and more conceptual, and more and more relevant,” Lévy says. 

“His project ends because he dies,” De Salvo says: “He was just getting going again.” Ultimately, she says, Warhol “reflected these twin American desires, which are at odds: our desire to innovate and our desire to conform.”

For this and more, tune in today.

Click here for the full transcript

Charlotte Burns: Hello and welcome to In Other Words, where we cover everything you ever wanted to know about the art world but didn’t know who to ask. I’m your host, Charlotte Burns and today I’m joined by Donna De Salvo, a senior curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art and its Deputy Director for International Initiatives.

A Warhol scholar, Donna has organized four exhibitions focused on the artist over the course of her career, the most recent being the major retrospective “Andy Warhol—From A to B And Back Again”.

Donna De Salvo: He didn’t invent our fascination with violence and death and spectacle. He saw that that sold. So, he’s very savvy, too.

This blockbuster show spanned his early work from the 1950s through to monumental paintings of the 1980s. It opened at the Whitney in November 2018 and is now on view at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art until 2 September.

The artist is also the subject of “Warhol Women”, an exhibition on show now until 15 June at Lévy Gorvy Gallery in New York. We’re joined today by Dominique Lévy, the co-founder and partner of the gallery, which has bases in London, Zurich, Hong Kong and New York.

Dominique Lévy: He was ahead because he was exactly where artists are not today. He was part of this buoyant community.

Before we get started, here’s your regular reminder to subscribe to our In Other Words newsletter at And now, on to today’s show.


Dominique Lévy

collector, advisor, gallerist and co-founder of Lévy Gorvy

Noted collector, advisor, and gallerist Dominique Lévy is considered a foremost authority on the global art market and is regarded as one of its most influential figures. In September 2013, Lévy opened her eponymous gallery in New York, which has since hosted a dynamic program of exhibitions, performances, and publications. Known for her innovative curatorial approach, Lévy inaugurated her New York gallery with the critically acclaimed exhibition Audible Presence: Lucio Fontana, Yves Klein, Cy Twombly, accompanied by the first public performance of Yves Klein’s groundbreaking Monotone-Silence Symphony in the United States.

Lévy’s early career was defined by her experiences at world-renowned auction houses and galleries in Switzerland, France, and the UK. In the late 1980s, she was hired by Swiss auctioneer and collector Simon de Pury at Sotheby’s, where she remained for four years. She subsequently worked with French art dealer Daniel Malingue when he opened his own gallery, and then collaborated with co-director Simon Studer on an independent curatorial enterprise. In the mid-1990s, she joined the team of influential London dealer Anthony d’Offay, where she specialized in postwar American art. From 1999 to 2003, Lévy was the International Director of Private Sales at Christie’s, New York, heading the department that she had played an instrumental role in developing. During this time, she brokered the sale of numerous 19th and 20th-century masterpieces while focusing on developing relationships with cultural institutions, museums, and private collectors. In 2003, she founded Dominique Lévy Fine Art, an advisory service that allowed her to focus on building long-term relationships with clients. In 2005, Lévy co-founded L&M Arts, a gallery with locations in New York and Los Angeles.

Lévy is a dedicated champion of the arts at large and supports various philanthropic efforts. She provides critical support to arts, literature, and performance institutions including Asia Society, MoMA PS1, the Jewish Museum, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Israel Museum.

Donna De Salvo

Deputy Director for International Initiatives and Senior Curator, Whitney Museum of American Art

Donna De Salvo joined the Whitney in 2004 and was appointed the Museum’s first Chief Curator in 2006, a post she held until 2015, when she assumed the role of Deputy Director for International Initiatives and Senior Curator. De Salvo organizes exhibitions and collection displays, co-directs the Painting and Sculpture Acquisition Committee, and oversees the Andy Warhol films catalogue raisonné project. A noted expert on the work of Warhol, she curated the Whitney’s major thematic retrospective Andy Warhol—From A to B and Back Again (2018). Recent exhibitions De Salvo has curated or co-curated include Hélio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium(2017), Open Plan: Michael Heizer (2016), and Open Plan: Steve McQueen (2016), in addition to numerous others prior to the Whitney’s move downtown.

Prior to working at the Whitney, De Salvo served for five years as a Senior Curator at the Tate Modern, London, where she curated such exhibitions as Open Systems: Rethinking Art c. 1970 (2005), Marsyas(Anish Kapoor’s 2003 work commissioned by Tate Modern for its Turbine Hall), and Century City: Art and Culture in the Modern Metropolis (2001). 

From 1981 to 1986, De Salvo was a curator at the Dia Art Foundation, where she worked closely with several of its artists, including John Chamberlain, Walter De Maria, Donald Judd, Cy Twombly, and Andy Warhol. 

She has written catalogues and essays and lectured on a wide range of modern and contemporary artists, including William Eggleston, Philip Guston, Wade Guyton, Barbara Kruger, Giorgio Morandi, Barnett Newman, Chris Ofili, Gerhard Richter, Robert Smithson, Cy Twombly, Mark Wallinger, and Gillian Wearing. A recipient of the Alfred H. Barr, Jr. Award from the College Art Association, she has participated in many international juries and review panels, and has taught at the curatorial studies programs at Bard College and the Royal College of Art.

Charlotte Burns

executive editor of In Other Words

Charlotte Burns is the editor of In Other Words, our weekly newsletters and podcasts. She was previously the US news and market editor for The Art Newspaper, as well as a regular correspondent for publications such as the Guardian and Monocle. Previously, she worked with the London dealer Anthony d’Offay on special projects. For several years, she was a consultant at the cultural communications agency, Bolton & Quinn. She also worked at Hauser & Wirth in London.

Burns received a Masters degree (with Merit) from the Courtauld Institute in Art and Cultural Politics in Germany, 1890-1945, as well as a first-class B.A. honors degree in English and History of Art from Birmingham University. She moved to New York in 2010.

Where to look

In Pictures: Images from the Exhibition "Warhol's Women"

11 Images

For More on “Warhol Women” and Dominique Lévy:

  1. Warhol Women” at Lévy Gorvy, on view through 15 June
  2. Is Warhol Still Art’s ‘One-Man Dow Jones’? Dealer Dominique Lévy Breaks Down Five Myths About the Artist’s Market” by Tim Schneider for artnet News, published 24 April 2019
  3. How Dominique Lévy Built An International Art Gallery” by Elana Lyn Gros for Forbes, published 4 June 2018

For More on “Andy Warhol—From A to B and Back Again” and Donna De Salvo:

  1. Andy Warhol—From A to B and Back Again” at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, on view through 2 September
  2. Meet Warhol, Again, in This Brilliant Whitney Show” by Holland Cotter for The New York Times, published 8 November 2018
  3.  “‘The Guy Was Mortal’: Whitney Curator Donna De Salvo on How Her Personal Relationship With Andy Warhol Shaped Her New Show” by Hilarie Sheets for artnet News, published 5 November 2018

The live record

Behind the Scenes with Dominique Lévy, Donna De Salvo and Charlotte Burns

8 Images

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