Race Riot
Average: 5 (1 vote)
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For a guy renowned for his Campbell’s Soup Cans, Andy Warhol’s Race Riots goes a level deeper.

It’s like John Lennon moving from writing songs like "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" to writing songs like "Revolution."

Race Riot is perhaps not the most aptly named painting, since the protest in the painting actually began as a peaceful demonstration and only turned violent when the unprovoked police unleashed German Shepherds on protesters and sprayed them with fire hoses. The protest was  led by Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Ralph Abernalthy, and Fred Shuttlesworth to oppose lunch counter segregation. The photographer Charles Moore, whose photo Warhol reproduced in this painting, described the police assault, saying, “In Birmingham when I saw the dogs I don't think anything appalled me more, and I've been to Vietnam.”

Warhol essentially stole and reproduced the image from Moore without gaining permission. The picture originally appeared as a full page spread in Life magazine. To take the pictures, Moore faced people who “tripped him, jostled him, and threatened to break his camera.” He even got arrested during the protest for disobeying a police officer (by taking pictures) and faced six months in prison as a result. Moore pulled a classic hide and wait-it-out, and he left the state then waited for the ruling to be overturned. Considering everything Moore went through to take the pictures, it feels fair that he sued the pants off of Warhol for reproducing it without permission. They would ultimately settle the case outside of court, but for some reason, this became a trend for Warhol in the 1960s. He seemingly paid little regard to copyrights and permissions, stealing pictures from both Patricia Caulfield and Fred Ward as well.

Warhol included Race Riot in a series of paintings he titled “Death and Disaster." The series began with 129 Die in Jet (inspired by a plane crash) and continued on to include electric chairs, atomic bombs, and wrecked cars.

Race Riot remains one of the greatest symbols of the Civil Rights Movement, even now. It was owned by Robert Mapplethorpe until 2014, when it sold at an auction for $62,885,000, making it one of Warhol’s most expensive paintings.




  1. "Charles Moore, 79, Dies; Photographed Civil Rights Violence." The Washington Post. March 16, 2010. Accessed July 24, 2018.
  2. Nechvatal, Joseph. "Death and Death and Death by Warhol." Hyperallergic. June 24, 2016. Accessed July 24, 2018.
  3. Admin. "Race Riots by Andy Warhol." ArtPaintingArtist. June 01, 2015. Accessed July 24, 2018.
  4. "Stories His Images Told: Charles Moore." Nieman Reports War Teaches Lessons About Fear and Courage Comments. Accessed July 24, 2018.
  5. Tate. "'Birmingham Race Riot', Andy Warhol, 1964." Tate. Accessed July 24, 2018.
  6. "The Art of the Steal: Warhol Didn't Get Away With It. Why Should Richard Prince?" PDNPulse. May 10, 2012. Accessed July 24, 2018.