Andy Warhol—From A to B and Back Again

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“Andy's work really goes to the heart of the matter of what it means to be a human being and what our potential is…It's the real deal.” —Jeff Koons

Hear from a range of contemporary artists, curators, and scholars speaking about iconic works on view. Contributors include Jeff Koons, Hank Willis Thomas, Deborah Kass, Peter Halley, Sasha Wortzel, and Richard Meyer.

Mark of the Beast (Positive), c. 1985-86

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Narrator: Returning to a practice he’d largely abandoned in the 1960s, Warhol based the paintings you see on this wall on advertisements. But these works are more overtly political, alluding to gentrification, the Cold War, and AIDS. Some of the paintings refer to HIV tests. One pictures a hand marked with the numbers “666,” over the phrase “The Mark of the Beast.” Warhol subtitled this work Positive, and another one Negative. That one shows a star radiating out from a figure’s forehead, beneath the words “Are you ‘different?’” In these works, Warhol responds to the extreme homophobia that marked early responses to AIDS. Jessica Beck is the Milton Fine Curator of Art at The Andy Warhol Museum.

Jessica Beck: The discourse had gotten so negative that it became a moment in which people were suggesting that homosexual men should be tattooed if they were positive for HIV and AIDS. So an image like The Mark of the Beast points to that discourse. It also points to the symptoms of the disease, the sarcoma that would accompany the disease. 

A graphic illustration of a hand with the numbers 666

Narrator: Returning to a practice he’d largely abandoned in the 1960s, Warhol based the paintings you see on this wall on advertisements. But these works are more overtly political, alluding to gentrification, the Cold War, and AIDS. Some of the paintings refer to HIV tests. One pictures a hand marked with the numbers “666,” over the phrase “The Mark of the Beast.” Warhol subtitled this work Positive, and another one Negative. That one shows a star radiating out from a figure’s forehead, beneath the words “Are you ‘different?’” In these works, Warhol responds to the extreme homophobia that marked early responses to AIDS. Jessica Beck is the Milton Fine Curator of Art at The Andy Warhol Museum.

Jessica Beck: The discourse had gotten so negative that it became a moment in which people were suggesting that homosexual men should be tattooed if they were positive for HIV and AIDS. So an image like The Mark of the Beast points to that discourse. It also points to the symptoms of the disease, the sarcoma that would accompany the disease. 


Andy Warhol, The Mark of the Beast (Positive), c. 1985–86. Acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas, 20 × 16 in. (50.8 × 40.6 cm). Hall Collection. © 2018 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York