Andy Warhol produced a lifetime of bold artwork—art that may have been audacious enough to make the famous Robert Moses uncomfortable. In 1964, Warhol painted a mural of Moses for the World’s Fair, but it was painted over—likely to prevent it from offending Moses. However, you can see a mosaic of Moses today near the entrance at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park!
Warhol was one of ten artists commissioned by architect Philip Johnson to decorate the New York State Pavilion, which Johnson built for the 1964 World’s Fair. Originally, Warhol pained a mural from the mugshots of the thirteen most wanted men in New York City. Although this mural did go up, it was whitewashed—and there are varying stories about why this happened. It’s likely that the governor didn’t like the mural because it mainly featured Italians, and he didn’t want to anger Italian visitors.
But The Bowery Boys say, “Warhol, however, knew very well that Moses was behind the objection.” Moses’ objection may have been less related to the mural’s content, and more to do with the fact that at the time, Warhol was becoming a famous yet “polarizing” icon.
In the meantime, Moses stepped down as Parks Commissioner to become President of the World’s Fair. So Warhol decided to make him the subject of his replacement mural. He silk-screened 25 pictures of a widely grinning Moses—an action that Johnson described as “thumbing his nose” at Moses. However, the mural was deemed too risky to present to the public, so Warhol covered the Moses portraits in gray paint.
Once again, there are different stories about why exactly the Moses mural wasn’t used for the World’s Fair. Some say that Johnson didn’t think it was appropriate for the World’s Fair or that he knew that the mural would offend Moses. Other accounts say Moses himself found it offensive and rejected it. Either way, a portrait from the mural was installed as a mosaic in 1998, and you can see it today near the Gotham Plaza Entrance to Passarelle Plaza of Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
And now, check out other World’s Fair mosaics you can see at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park!