Pop art has a nearly 70-year-old history, with the brash and playful movement first emerging in the mid-20th century in response to, and inspired by, mass culture and consumerism. This year, works by some of its central figures are arriving on the Gold Coast.

On February 18, The Legends of Pop Art opens at the Home of the Arts Gallery – a world premiere six years in the making, curating works from the Mugrabi Collection, the leading collector of Andy Warhol. Alongside works by Warhol are pop art giants Keith Haring and Jean-Michael Basquiat, among others. According to Home of the Arts director Tracy Cooper-Lavery, unpacking these crates was unlike anything she’d seen before.

“It’s startling to see these works come out because we curated this exhibition pretty much online through thumbnail images, because of Covid,” says Cooper-Lavery. “To see some of these works up close, particularly by Warhol, you can see brush marks and stuff underneath the screen printing, which gives it more realism, that I wasn’t expecting.”

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Of the 54 works, almost half are by Warhol, from his Polaroids through to Sixteen Jackies. Alongside these are works from the second wave of pop art by Haring and Basquiat, as well as pieces by Katherine Bernhardt, Kwesi Botchway, George Condo, Damien Hirst, Kaws, Joel Mesler, Richard Prince, Tom Sachs, Julian Schnabel, Mickalene Thomas and Tom Wesselmann. Some of these were Warhol’s friends and collaborators, while the more recent artists (such as Hirst or Prince) took influence from the earlier waves of pop art’s slogans, bold colours, appropriation, collages, screen-printing and mass production.

The first thing you see when you walk in is Richard Prince’s Instagram works – blown-up photographs of people’s Instagram posts with Prince’s own comments and emojis added.

“One of the things I love about those two works is that one actually references the Mugrabi family,” says Cooper-Lavery. “It’s a kind of cyclical discussion around contemporary culture. I think, how would Andy Warhol have loved it? It’s like Instagram was made for Warhol, that kind of instant visual feed.”

To accompany the exhibition, Hota is hosting talks about the pop movement from local artists Rhys John-Kaye and Sean Rafferty, as well as a Pop Masters Film Season with 10 documentaries and feature films. You can bring the post-punk New York mood to your home with a playlist curated by film composer Elliott Wheeler or visit Pop Masters Up Late: New York Nights to experience the exhibition in an even more immersive way.

“There’ll be a mix of contemporary music and performance, but it’s also back to the early-’80s with a Studio 54 vibe,” says Cooper-Lavery. “In our Exhibitionist bar and also in Palette, our restaurant, the menus have references to pop masters and New York.”

With pop art’s emphasis on materialism, expect exhibition-specific items emblazoned with quotes from the artists. “[Haring] started his own Pop Shop in the 1980s because he wanted to democratise his work when it went from the streets and into the galleries and became more inaccessible. He bypassed everybody and put his own work on T-shirts,” says Cooper-Lavery.

The exhibition seems fitting to be coming exclusively to the Gold Coast. “The Gold Coast is probably the closest to a pop city that you can get,” says Cooper-Lavery. “I think Andy Warhol would love the Gold Coast because it’s got a bronzy glamour to it.”

This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Tourism and Events Queensland.