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Thirteen Most Wanted Men

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Title: Thirteen Most Wanted Men  
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Subject: Green Coca-Cola Bottles, The Andy Warhol Diaries, Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster), The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, Shot Marilyns
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Thirteen Most Wanted Men

Thirteen Most Wanted Men was a large mural created by Andy Warhol for the New York State Pavilion at the 1964 World's Fair at Flushing Meadows, New York. The mural was painted over with silver paint before the fair opened, probably due to official objections, but other reasons have been suggested.

Warhol and nine (originally ten) other artists were commissioned in 1962 to create works to decorate the New York State Pavilion. The nine others were Peter Agostini, John Chamberlain, Robert Indiana, Ellsworth Kelly, Roy Lichtenstein, Alexander Liberman, Robert Mallary, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist; the eleventh was Claes Oldenburg.

Warhol's large mural was intended to hang on the outside of the Circarama, a circular cinema 100 feet (30 m) in diameter. Intending to depict "something to do with New York", and taking inspiration from Marcel Duchamp's 1923 work Wanted, $2,000 Reward (in which Duchamp put his own photograph in a wanted poster), Warhol decided to print large-scale copies of images from a booklet published on 1 February 1962 by the New York Police Department, entitled " The Thirteen Most Wanted", showing 22 head-and-shoulder mug shots of the wanted men. Silkscreens for the panels of the mural were created in early 1964, printed in silkscreen ink on Masonite, and the completed 20 feet (6.1 m) 5-by-5 square (including three blank frames) was installed at the site by 15 April. Warhol stated that the work cost $4,000 to create.

Government officials quickly objected to the images and on 16 April - two weeks before the fair was due to open - Philip Johnson, the architect of the pavilion, told Warhol that he must remove or replace the work within 24 hours. The stated reason was that the Governor of New York Nelson Rockefeller was concerned that the images - mostly depicting men of Italian descent - would be insulting to an important segment of his electorate. Other reasons later reported for the work being painted over included Warhol's dissatisfaction with the work, or with the way it had been hung, or his concern at possible legal liability as one of the men had been pardoned.

Warhol's suggestion that he could replace the mural with 25 portraits of Robert Moses, president of the World's Fair Corporation, was not taken up, so on 17 April he gave his permission for it to be painted over, and it had been obliterated with aluminium house paint before the fair opened to the public. Some critics have seen the mural painted over in monochrome silver as a separate artwork, as a form of ironic comment on images of the "most wanted" men not being desired at the World's Fair. Later commentators have also suggested that the title "wanted" bears a double meaning, referring to homosexual desire, with the mugshots rearranged so many of the men were looking at each other.

Warhol used the same silkscreens to create a series of smaller diptych artworks that were exhibited in Paris, Cologne and London in 1966-68 The work may have partly inspired two compilations made from his Screen Tests series, 13 Most Beautiful Women and 13 Most Beautiful Boys, made in 1964-5.


  • (see 22 April 1964)
  • Andy Warhol and the Can That Sold the World, Gary Indiana, p. 92-93
  • Crime and Punishment in Contemporary Culture, Dr. Claire Grant, Claire Valier, p. 5
  • Oliver Watts, 'Warhol’s Thirteen Most Wanted Men: Public Art and the Scandal of the World’s Fair Pavilion 1964', in Transparency, Power and Control: Perspectives on Legal Communication, eds. Anne Wagner and Vijay Bahtia, Ashgate Publishing pp252-5
  • Materializing Queer Desire: Oscar Wilde to Andy Warhol, Elisa Glick, p. 151
  • Negotiating Lesbian & Gay Subjects, Monica Dorenkamp, Richard Henke, p. 93-6
  • Andy Warhol, Volume 2 of October Files, Annette Michelson, B. H. D. Buchloh, p. 43

Further reading

  • Outlaw representation: censorship & homosexuality in twentieth-century American art, Richard Meyer, 2003
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