Art: Up at Bat: Warhol and Baseball

Turns out Pete Rose wasn’t the only baseball player that artist Andy Warhol ever depicted. He wasn’t even the only Red. Tom Seaver came first — but accidentally.

Pete Rose
Pete Rose

Turns out Pete Rose wasn’t the only baseball player that artist Andy Warhol ever depicted. He wasn’t even the only Red. Tom Seaver came first — but accidentally.

That’s one surprise of Cincinnati Art Museum’s new and informative exhibition Up at Bat: Warhol and Baseball, on display in a first-floor gallery now through Aug. 2.  

It’s a surprise because, supposedly, Warhol was so uninterested in baseball he didn’t even know who Rose was. He just created the piece as another “celebrity portrait” assignment.

The museum, wanting to celebrate Rose’s then-pending setting of Major League Baseball’s all-time hit record, paid $100,000 for the commissioned piece (and the accompanying 50 signed prints, which the museum sold at $2,500 each) in 1985. The Carl Solway Gallery handled the arrangements. It’s been on display ever since.

But the biggest surprise is that the show, organized by Curator of Prints Kristin Spangenberg with Director Cameron Kitchin, isn’t just a way to highlight that painting for this year’s All-Star Game in Cincinnati. Really, this is a show about Warhol, who died in 1987, more than Rose, who was banned from baseball in 1989 for gambling on the game.

It brings together the three known baseball-related artworks that Warhol created in his long career — the Rose piece; a commissioned 1977 portrait of Seaver (from the Andy Warhol Museum); and a 1962 oil paint and photo screen print of New York Yankee Roger Maris breaking Babe Ruth’s home run record (from Kansas City, Mo.’s Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art). There are also prints of Chairman Mao, Liz Taylor and Jackie Kennedy.

The show has much to see for a relatively small exhibition, and much to learn about this influential, fascinating artist and the complicated multicolor screen print process he mastered. 

Through Aug. 2. Free; $4 parking. Cincinnati Art Museum, 953 Eden Park Drive, cincinnatiartmuseum.org.

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