“In the future, everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes.” When Andy Warhol made this statement back in 1968, even he probably did not realize how prophetic his words would become. With the advent of reality TV as well as social media, those who normally might have remained obscure have certainly become “world famous.”
Warhol felt art should be accessible to all, and although most people believe his quote refers to fame being fleeting, he was also referring to changes occurring so rapidly in the art scene.
Warhol was born on August 6th,1928 to Andrej and Julia Warhola, Czechoslovakian immigrants who had settled in Pittsburgh, Pa. Raised a devout Byzantine Catholic, Warhol continued to attend mass at St Mary’s Cathedral in New York City throughout his life.
Warhol’s father, a coal miner, died before he began attending high school, and although the family lived modestly, Warhol had begun attending free art classes at the Carnegie Institute as well as taking and developing his own photographs. Warhol went on to attend Carnegie Institute of Technology (Carnegie Mellon University) earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in pictorial design.
Female Fashion Figure 1950
After graduation in 1949, Warhol moved to Manhattan to find work as an illustrator. His first published work was in Glamour magazine in September 1949. Soon his unique style of drawing was winning numerous awards, and he began exhibiting his work at Serendipity 3, an ice cream parlor on the Upper East Side where he often entertained his friends and who helped him create a series of self-published artists’ books.
In the 1960’s Warhol began immersing himself in painting, and began his foray into Pop Art. The Pop Art movement began in the 1950’s in London in referencing the works of a small group of artists such as Richard Hamilton. Hamilton defined Pop as “Popular (designed for a mass audience); Transient (short term solution); Expendable (easily forgotten); Low Cost; Mass Produced; Young (aimed at Youth); Witty; Sexy; Gimmicky; Glamorous; and Big Business.” Hamilton set out to explore the hidden connotations of imagery taken directly from advertising and popular culture. Warhol first began painting using comic strip characters as his theme, but soon developed his “pop art” by debuting one of his most iconic paintings, The Campbell Soup Can series. After this came his famous celebrity portraits such as Marilyn Monroe and with it Warhol’s own celebrity status. In 1963, he created a studio known as “The Factory” where he was the lead artist to a battallion of factory art-workers churning out works often using screen-printing techniques. He premiered his first sculpture series which included hundreds of replicas of large supermarket boxes in a silver painted “Factory.” The Factory became more than just a studio, visited by artists, rock starts, actors and students, the space was transformed into a living fantasy world. A place for the “in crowd” to gather, becoming one of Manhattan’s premier cultural hotspots.
Campbells Soup Cans
Warhol experimented with numerous mediums in nearly every artistic field. His early love of photography continued, shown with his numerous self-portraits, and he also began to explore cinematography. He produced numerous movies, over 60 in total, his most famous film Sleep depicted the poet John Giorno sleeping for six hours. Although panned by most critics, Warhol continued to develop this medium by hosting two TV shows into the 1980s. His first mass produced book, Andy Warhol’s Index, was published in 1967; and a mere 2 years later he founded the magazine Interview dedicated to promoting popular culture. Warhol also had a close collaboration with the musical group, The Velvet Underground staging multimedia events on both sides of the US.
Self Portrait, 1978
Self Portraits, 1963-64
Throughout the 1970’s Warhol was commissioned by hundreds of wealthy socialites and film stars as his celebrity status began to exceed his subjects. He himself had become a “pop star.” His frequent sightings at famous night clubs such as Studio 54 as well as frequent socializing with his famous cohorts Truman Capote, Liza Minnelli, and
Jackie Onassis perpetuated Warhol’s iconic status.
Portrait of McJagger, 1975
Warhol was a prolific artist, experimenting with numerous mediums throughout his career. In the 1980’s his collaboration with a few young artists including Jean-Michel Basquiat had him return to painting with a brush. He continued to produce avant-garde work up until his untimely death stemming from complications from gall bladder surgery at age 58. His two final exhibitions, the Last Supper paintings shown in Milan and his Sewn Photos shown in New York opened one month prior to his death in 1987.
The Last Supper, 1987
Andy Warhol died a multi-millionaire, his estate being worth a reported $220,000,000.
Both he and his art have been criticized as a testament to America’s materialism, but no one can deny his unique genius. His goal was to make art accessible to the masses; to counter the viewpoint that elite viewers insisted on imposing one singular art form. In the end, he gained wide acceptance from both spectrums of the public, and his work can be seen in collections next to traditional masterpieces. Over 8000 works can be viewed at the Andy Warhol Museum at Carnegie Mellon where this art collection includes media-paintings, drawings, sculpture, photographs, and prints.
But perhaps Warhol himself can best sum up his philosophy in these words:
“What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you can know the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum in the street is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, The President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.”
- The Warhol. Web. 5 Mar. 2013. <http://www.warhol.org>.
- MoMA, art terms, Pop art <http://www.moma.org/collection/theme.php?theme_id=10170>
- Tretiack, Philippe. Andy Warhol. New York, NY: n.p., 1997. Print.
- Warhol, Andy. Andy Warhol. New York, NY: Rizzoli International Publications,