Andrew Warhola (August 6, 1928 – February 22, 1987), known as Andy Warhol, was an American artist and a central figure in the movement known as pop art. After a successful career as a commercial illustrator, Warhol became famous worldwide for his work as a painter, avant-garde filmmaker, record producer, author, and public figure known for his membership in wildly diverse social circles that included bohemian street people, distinguished intellectuals, Hollywood celebrities and wealthy aristocrats.
Warhol coined the phrase 15 minutes of fame, which refers to the fleeting condition of celebrity that attaches to an object of media attention, then passes to some new object as soon as the public's attention span is exhausted.
In third grade Warhol had St. Vitus' dance, a nervous system disease that causes involuntary movements of the extremities, which is believed to be a complication of scarlet fever and causes skin pigmentation blotchiness. He became somewhat of a hypochondriac, developing a fear of hospitals and doctors. Often bed-ridden as a child, he became an outcast among his school-mates and bonded with his mother very strongly (Guiles, 1989). When in bed he drew, listened to the radio and collected pictures of movie stars around his bed. Warhol later described this period as very important in the development of his personality, skill-set and preferences.
Warhol showed an early artistic talent and studied commercial art at the School of Fine Arts at Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh (now Carnegie Mellon University). In 1949, he moved to New York City and began a successful career in magazine illustration and advertising. During the 1950s, he gained fame for his whimsical ink drawings of shoe advertisements. These were done in a loose, blotted ink style, and figured in some of his earliest showings in New York at the Bodley Gallery. With the concurrent rapid expansion of the record industry and the introduction of the vinyl record, Hi-Fi, and stereophonic recordings, RCA Records hired Warhol, along with another freelance artist, Sid Maurer, to design album covers and promotional materials.
It was during the 1960s that Warhol began to make paintings of iconic American products such as Campbell's Soup Cans from the Campbell Soup Company and Coca-Cola bottles, as well as paintings of celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Troy Donahue, and Elizabeth Taylor. He founded "The Factory," his studio during these years and gathered around himself a wide range of artists, writers, musicians, and underground celebrities. He switched to silkscreen prints which he produced serially, seeking not only to make art of mass-produced items but to mass produce the art itself. By minimizing the role of his own hand in the production of his work and declaring that he wanted to be "a machine," Warhol sparked a revolution in art. His work quickly became popular as well as controversial.
Warhol's work from this period revolves around United States pop (popular) culture. He painted dollar bills, celebrities, brand name products and images from newspaper clippings - many of the latter were iconic images from headline stories of the decade such as photographs of mushroom clouds, electric chairs, and police dogs attacking civil rights protesters). His subjects were instantly recognizable and often had a mass appeal. This aspect interested him most and it unifies his paintings from this period. Take for example Warhol's comments on the appeal of Coke:
This quotation both expresses his affection for popular culture, and evidences an ambiguity of perspective that cuts across nearly all of the artist's statements about his own work.
New York's Museum of Modern Art hosted a Symposium on pop art in December 1962 during which artists like Warhol were attacked for "capitulating" to consumerism. Critics were scandalized by Warhol's open embrace of market culture. This symposium set the tone for Warhol's reception. Throughout the decade it became more and more clear that there had been a profound change in the culture of the art world, and that Warhol was at the center of that shift.
A pivotal event was the 1964 exhibit The American Supermarket, a show held in Paul Bianchini's Upper East Side gallery. The show was presented as a typical U.S. small supermarket environment, except that everything in it from the produce, canned goods, meat, posters on the wall, etc. were created by six prominent pop artists of the time including the controversial (and like-minded) Billy Apple, Mary Inman, and Robert Watts. Warhol's painting of a can of Campbell's soup cost $1,500 while each autographed can sold for $6. The exhibit was one of the first mass events that directly confronted the general public with both Pop Art and the perennial question of what is art.
As an advertisement illustrator in the 1950s, Warhol used assistants to increase his productivity. Collaboration would remain a defining (and controversial) aspect of his working methods throughout his career; in the 1960s, however, this was particularly true. One of the most important collaborators during this period was Gerard Malanga. Malanga assisted the artist with producing silkscreens, films, sculpture, and other works at "The Factory", Warhol's aluminum foil-and-silver-paint-lined studio on 47th Street (later moved to Broadway). Other members of Warhol's Factory crowd included Freddie Herko, Ondine, Ronald Tavel, Mary Woronov, Billy Name, and Brigid Berlin (from whom he apparently got the idea to tape record his phone conversations).
During this decade, Warhol also groomed a retinue of bohemian eccentrics upon whom he bestowed the designation "Superstars", including Edie Sedgwick, Viva, and Ultra Violet. These people all participated in the Factory films, and some, like Berlin, remained friends with Warhol until his death. Important figures in the New York underground art/cinema world (e.g. writer John Giorno, film-maker Jack Smith) also appear in Warhol films of the 1960s, revealing Warhol's connections to a diverse range of artistic scenes during this period. By the end of the decade, Andy Warhol was himself a celebrity, appearing frequently in newspapers and magazines alongside Factory cohorts like Sedgwick.
Before the shooting, Solanas had been a marginal figure in the Factory scene. She founded a "group" called S.C.U.M. (Society for Cutting up Men) and authored the S.C.U.M. Manifesto, a separatist feminist attack on patriarchy. Solanas appears in the 1968 Warhol film I, A Man. Earlier on the day of the attack, Solanas had been turned away from the Factory after asking for the return of a script she had given to Warhol. The script, apparently, had been misplaced.
Amaya received only minor injuries and was released from the hospital later the same day. Warhol however, was seriously wounded by the attack and barely survived (doctors opened his chest and massaged his heart to help stimulate its movement again). He suffered physical effects for the rest of his life. The shooting had a profound effect on Warhol's life and art.
Solanas was arrested the day after the assault. By way of explanation, she said that "He had too much control over my life." After the shooting, the Factory scene became much more tightly controlled, and for many this event brought the "Factory 60s" to an end.
The shooting was mostly overshadowed in the media due to the murder of Robert F. Kennedy two days later. On recalling the event of the shooting Warhol stated, "Before I was shot, I always thought that I was more half-there than all-there. I always suspected that I was watching TV instead of living life."
Warhol used to socialize at various nightspots in New York City, including Max's Kansas City, Serendipity 3 and, later in the 70s, Studio 54. He was generally regarded as quiet, shy, and a meticulous observer. Art critic Robert Hughes called him "the white mole of Union Square."
By this period, Warhol was being criticized for becoming merely a "business artist." In 1979 unfavorable reviews met his exhibits of portraits of 1970s personalities and celebrities, calling them superficial, facile and commercial, with no depth or indication of the significance of the subjects. This criticism was echoed for his 1980 exhibit of ten portraits at the Jewish Museum in New York, entitled Jewish Geniuses, which Warhol, who exhibited no interest in Judaism or matters of interest to Jews, had described in his diary as "They're going to sell."
In hindsight, however, some critics have come to view Warhol's superficiality and commerciality as "the most brilliant mirror of our times," contending that "Warhol had captured something irresistible about the zeitgeist of American culture in the 1970s."
Warhol also had an appreciation for intense Hollywood glamour. He once said: "I love Los Angeles. I love Hollywood. They're so beautiful. Everything's plastic, but I love plastic. I want to be plastic."
Throughout his career, Warhol produced erotic photography and drawings of male nudes. Many of his most famous works (portraits of Liza Minnelli, Judy Garland, and Elizabeth Taylor, and films like Blow Job, My Hustler, and Lonesome Cowboys) draw from gay underground culture and/or openly explore the complexity of sexuality and desire. Many of his films premiered in gay porn theaters. That said, some stories about Warhol's development as an artist revolved around the obstacle his sexuality initially presented as he tried to launch his career. The first works that he submitted to a gallery in the pursuit of a career as an artist were homoerotic drawings of male nudes. They were rejected for being too openly gay. In Popism, furthermore, the artist recalls a conversation with the film maker Emile de Antonio about the difficulty Warhol had being accepted socially by the then more famous (but closeted) gay artists Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. De Antonio explained that Warhol was "too swish and that upsets them." In response to this, Warhol writes, "There was nothing I could say to that. It was all too true. So I decided I just wasn't going to care, because those were all the things that I didn't want to change anyway, that I didn't think I 'should' want to change ... Other people could change their attitudes but not me". In exploring Warhol's biography, many turn to this period - the late 1950s and early 1960s - as a key moment in the development of his persona. Some have suggested that his frequent refusal to comment on his work, to speak about himself (confining himself in interviews to responses like "Um, No" and "Um, Yes", and often allowing others to speak for him), and even the evolution of his Pop style can be traced to the years when Warhol was first dismissed by the inner circles of the New York art world.
During his life, Warhol regularly attended Mass, and the priest at Warhol's church, Saint Vincent, said that the artist went there almost daily. His art is noticeably influenced by the eastern Christian iconographic tradition which was so evident in his places of worship.
Warhol's brother has described the artist as "really religious, but he didn't want people to know about that because [it was] private." Despite the private nature of his faith, in Warhol's eulogy John Richardson depicted it as devout: "To my certain knowledge, he was responsible for at least one conversion. He took considerable pride in financing his nephew's studies for the priesthood."
Warhol's body was taken back to Pittsburgh by his brothers for burial. The wake was at Thomas P. Kunsak Funeral Home and was an open-coffin ceremony. The coffin was a solid bronze casket with gold plated rails and white upholstery. Warhol wore a black cashmere suit, a paisley tie, a platinum wig, and sunglasses. He was holding a small prayer book and a red rose. The funeral liturgy was held at the Holy Ghost Byzantine Catholic Church on Pittsburgh's North Side. The eulogy was given by Monsignor Peter Tay. Yoko Ono also made an appearance. The coffin was covered with white roses and asparagus ferns. After the liturgy, the coffin was driven to St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cemetery in Bethel Park, a south suburb of Pittsburgh. At the grave, the priest said a brief prayer and sprinkled holy water on the casket. Before the coffin was lowered, Paige Powell dropped a copy of Interview magazine, an Interview t-shirt, and a bottle of the Estee Lauder perfume "Beautiful" into the grave. Warhol was buried next to his mother and father. Weeks later a memorial service was held in Manhattan for Warhol on April 1, 1987 at St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York.
Warhol's will dictated that his entire estate, with the exception of a few modest legacies to family members, would go to create a foundation dedicated to the "advancement of the visual arts." Warhol had so many possessions that it took Sotheby's nine days to auction his estate after his death; the auction grossed more than US$20 million. His total estate was worth considerably more, in no small part due to shrewd investments over the years.
In 1987, in accordance for Warhol's will, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts was founded. The Foundation not only serves as the official Estate of Andy Warhol, but it also has a mission "to foster innovative artistic expression and the creative process" and is "focused primarily on supporting work of a challenging and often experimental nature.
The Artists Rights Society is the U.S. copyright representative for the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts for all Warhol works with the exception of Warhol film stills. The U.S. copyright representative for Warhol film stills is the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. Additionally, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts has agreements in place for their image archive. All digital images of Warhol are exclusively managed by Corbis, while all transparency images of Warhol are managed by Art Resource
The Andy Warhol Foundation recently released their 20th Anniversary Annual Report as three volume set (Vol. I 1987-2007; Vol. II Grants & Exhibitions; and Vol. III Legacy Program).. The Foundation remains one of the largest grant giving organizations for the visual arts in the U.S..
In the early 1960s, Warhol tried to exhibit some of his drawings using these techniques in a gallery, only to be turned down. He began to rethink the relationship between his commercial work and the rest of his art. Instead of treating these things as opposites, he merged them, and began to take commercial and popular culture more explicitly as his topic.
Pop Art was an experimental form that several artists were independently adopting; some of these pioneers, such as Roy Lichtenstein, would later become synonymous with the movement. Warhol, who would become famous as the "Pope of Pop," turned to this new style, where popular subjects could be part of the artist's palette. His early paintings show images taken from cartoons and advertisements, hand-painted with paint drips. Those drips emulated the style of successful abstract expressionists (such as Robert Rauschenberg). Eventually, Warhol pared his image vocabulary down to the icon itself—to brand names, celebrities, dollar signs—and removed all traces of the artist's "hand" in the production of his paintings.
To him, part of defining a niche was defining his subject matter. Cartoons were already being used by Lichtenstein, typography by Jasper Johns, and so on; Warhol wanted a distinguishing subject. His friends suggested he should paint the things he loved the most. In his signature way of taking things literally, for his first major exhibition he painted his famous cans of Campbell's Soup, which he claimed to have had for lunch for most of his life. The work sold for $10,000 at an auction on November 17, 1971 at Sotheby's New York, which is a minimal amount for the artist whose paintings sell for over $6 million more recently.
He loved celebrities, so he painted them as well. From these beginnings he developed his later style and subjects. Instead of working on a signature subject matter, as he started out to do, he worked more and more on a signature style, slowly eliminating the hand-made from the artistic process. Warhol frequently used silk-screening; his later drawings were traced from slide projections. Warhol went from being a painter to being a designer of paintings. At the height of his fame as a painter, Warhol had several assistants who produced his silk-screen multiples, following his directions to make different versions and variations.
Warhol produced both comic and serious works; his subject could be a soup can or an electric chair. Warhol used the same techniques—silkscreens, reproduced serially, and often painted with bright colors—whether he painted celebrities, everyday objects, or images of suicide, car crashes, and disasters, as in the 1962-63 Death and Disaster series. The Death and Disaster paintings (such as Red Car Crash, Purple Jumping Man, and Orange Disaster) transform personal tragedies into public spectacles, and signal the use of images of disaster in the then evolving media.
The unifying element in Warhol's work is his deadpan Keatonesque style—artistically and personally affectless. This was mirrored by Warhol's own demeanor, as he often played "dumb" to the media, and refused to explain his work. The artist was famous for having said that all you need to know about him and his works is already there, "on the surface."
Warhol's work as a Pop Artist has always had conceptual aspects. His series of do it yourself paintings and Rorschach inkblots are intended as pop comments on art and what art could be. His cow wallpaper (literally, wallpaper with a cow motif) and his oxidation paintings (canvases prepared with copper paint that was then oxidized with urine) are also noteworthy in this context. Equally noteworthy is the way these works—and their means of production—mirrored the atmosphere at Andy's New York "Factory." Biographer Bob Colacello provides some details on Andy's "piss paintings":
Warhol's The Last Supper cycle, a deeply religious body of work, was his last series, possibly his largest and "arguably his greatest". It is also the largest series of religious works by any U.S. artist.
Batman Dracula is a 1964 film that was produced and directed by Warhol, without the permission of DC Comics. It was screened only at his art exhibits. A fan of the Batman series, Warhol's movie was an "homage" to the series, and is considered the first appearance of a blatantly campy Batman. The film was until recently thought to have been lost, until scenes from the picture were shown at some length in the 2006 documentary Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis.
Warhol's 1965 film Vinyl is an adaptation of Anthony Burgess' popular dystopian novel A Clockwork Orange. Others record improvised encounters between Factory regulars such as Brigid Berlin, Viva, Edie Sedgwick, Candy Darling, Holly Woodlawn, Ondine, Nico, and Jackie Curtis. Legendary underground artist Jack Smith appears in the film Camp.
His most popular and critically successful film was 1966's Chelsea Girls. The film was highly innovative in that it consisted of two 16 mm films being projected simultaneously, with two different stories being shown in tandem. From the projection booth, the sound would be raised for one film to elucidate that "story" while it was lowered for the other. The multiplication of images evoked Warhol's seminal silk-screen works of the early 1960s. The influence of the film's split-screen, multi-narrative style could be felt in such modern work as Mike Figgis' Timecode and, however indirectly, the early seasons of 24.
Other important films include Bike Boy, My Hustler, and Lonesome Cowboys, a raunchy pseudo-western. These and other titles document gay underground and camp culture, and continue to feature prominently in scholarship about sexuality and art - see, for example, Mathew Tinkom's Working Like a Homosexual (Duke University Press, 2002) or Juan Suarez's Bike Boys, Drag Queens, and Superstars (Indiana University Press, 1996). Blue Movie, a film in which Warhol superstar Viva makes love and fools around in bed with a man for 33 minutes of the film's playing-time, was Warhol's last film as director. The film was at the time scandalous for its frank approach to a sexual encounter. For many years Viva refused to allow it to be screened. It was publicly screened in New York in 2005 for the first time in over thirty years.
After his June 3, 1968 shooting, a reclusive Warhol relinquished his personal involvement in filmmaking. His acolyte and assistant director, Paul Morrissey, took over the film-making chores for the Factory collective, steering Warhol-branded cinema towards more mainstream, narrative-based, B-movie exploitation fare with Flesh, Trash, and Heat. All of these films, including the later Andy Warhol's Dracula and Andy Warhol's Frankenstein, were far more mainstream than anything Warhol as a director had attempted. These latter "Warhol" films starred Joe Dallesandro, who was more of a Morrissey star than a true Warhol superstar.
In order to facilitate the success of these Warhol-branded, Morrissey-directed movies in the marketplace, all of Warhol's earlier avant-garde films were removed from distribution and exhibition by 1972.
The first volume of a catalogue raisonne for the Factory film archive, edited by Callie Angell, was published in the spring of 2006.
In the mid 1960s, Warhol adopted the band The Velvet Underground, making them a crucial element of the Exploding Plastic Inevitable multimedia performance art show. Warhol, with Paul Morrissey, acted as the band's manager, introducing them to Nico (who would perform with the band at Warhol's request). In 1966 he "produced" their first album The Velvet Underground and Nico, as well as providing its album art. His actual participation in the album's production amounted to simply paying for the studio time. After the band's first album, Warhol and band leader Lou Reed started to disagree more about the direction the band should take, and their artistic friendship ended.
Warhol designed many album covers for various artists starting with the photographic cover of John Wallowitch's debut album, This Is John Wallowitch!!! (1964). Warhol designed the cover art for The Rolling Stones albums Sticky Fingers (1971) and Love You Live (1977), and the John Cale album Honi Soit in 1981. In 1975, Warhol was commissioned to do several portraits of the band's frontman Mick Jagger while in 1982, he designed the album cover for the Diana Ross album Silk Electric.
Warhol was also friendly with many recording artists, including Deborah Harry, Grace Jones, Diana Ross and John Lennon - he designed the cover to Lennon's 1986 posthumously released Menlove Ave.. Warhol also appeared as a bartender in The Cars' music video for their single "Hello Again", and Curiosity Killed The Cat's video for their "Misfit" single (both videos, and others, were produced by Warhol's video production company).
Warhol strongly influenced the New Wave/punk rock band Devo, as well as David Bowie. Bowie recorded a song called "Andy Warhol" for his 1971 album Hunky Dory. Lou Reed wrote the song "Andy's Chest", about Valerie Solanas, the woman who shot Warhol, in 1968. He recorded it with the Velvet Underground, but this version wasn't officially released until the VU album appeared in 1985. He recorded a new version for his 1972 solo album Transformer, produced by Bowie and Mick Ronson.
The first of several bound self-published books by Warhol was 25 Cats Name Sam and One Blue Pussy, printed in 1954 by Seymour Berlin on Arches brand watermarked paper using his blotted line technique for the lithographs. The original edition was limited to 190 numbered, hand colored copies, using Dr. Martin's ink washes. Most of these were given by Warhol as gifts to clients and friends. Copy #4, inscribed "Jerry" on the front cover and given to Geraldine Stutz, was used for a facsimile printing in 1987 and the original was auctioned in May 2006 for US $35,000.
Other self-published books by Warhol include:
Later Warhol "wrote" several books that were commercially printed.
Warhol created the fashion magazine Interview that is still published today. The loopy title script on the cover is thought to be either his own handwriting or that of his mother, Julia Warhola, who would often do text work for his early commercial pieces.
He founded the gossip magazine Interview, a stage for celebrities he "endorsed" and a business staffed by his friends. He collaborated with others on all of his books (some of which were written with Pat Hackett.) He adopted the young painter Jean-Michel Basquiat, and the band The Velvet Underground, presenting them to the public as his latest interest, and collaborating with them. One might even say that he produced people (as in the Warholian "Superstar" and the Warholian portrait). He endorsed products, appeared in commercials, and made frequent celebrity guest appearances on television shows and in films (he appeared in everything from Love Boat to Saturday Night Live and the Richard Pryor movie, Dynamite Chicken).
In this respect Warhol was a fan of "Art Business" and "Business Art" - he, in fact, wrote about his interest in thinking about art as business in The Philosophy of Andy Warhol from A to B and Back Again. This was a radical new stance, as artists traditionally positioned themselves against commercialism. Warhol and other pop-artists helped redefine the artist's position as professional, commercial, and popular. He did this using methods, imagery and talents that were (or at least seemed to be) available to everyone. In this respect Pop Art has contributed to a philosophical and practical incorporation of art into popular culture and society, and art offered to us as a product of that society.
The other museum is the Andy Warhol Museum of Modern Art, established in 1991 by Andy's brother John Warhola, the Slovak Ministry of Culture, and the Warhol Foundation in New York. It is located in the small town of Medzilaborce, Slovakia. Andy's parents were born 15 kilometers away in the village of Miková. The museum houses several originals donated mainly by the Andy Warhol Foundation in New York and also personal items donated by Warhol's relatives.
Andy Warhol is portrayed by Crispin Glover in Oliver Stone's film The Doors (1991), by David Bowie in Basquiat, a film by Julian Schnabel and by Jared Harris in the film I Shot Andy Warhol directed by Mary Harron (1996). Actor Mark Bringleson makes a brief cameo as Warhol in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, painting a supine woman's outfit to match the pattern on the floor of the Electric Psychedelic Pussycat Swingers' Club while looking at a Campbell's Soup can. Also, many films by Jonas Mekas have the moments of Andy's life caught (for example "Super 8 films"; "Scenes From The Life Of Andy Warhol" and many more). Sean Gregory Sullivan depicted Warhol in the 1998 film 54. The latest film actor to portray the artist is Guy Pearce in the 2007 film, Factory Girl.
The 2001 documentary, Absolut Warhola, was produced by German director Stanislaw Mucha, featuring Warhol's parents' family and hometown in Slovakia.
Gus Van Sant was planning a version of Warhol's life with River Phoenix in the lead role just before Phoenix's death in 1993 (as discussed in an interview with the two, included in the published My Own Private Idaho script book).
Two years after Warhol's death, Songs for Drella, a co-commissioned work by The Brooklyn Academy of Music and The Arts at St. Ann's in New York City, was staged as a concept album performed by Lou Reed and John Cale, alumni of The Velvet Underground. The performance was filmed and directed by Ed Lachman, on December 6, 1989, and released on VHS and laserdisc formats. It was released on CD in a black velveteen package in 1990 by Sire Records. Drella was a nickname coined by Warhol superstar Ondine for Warhol, a portmanteau of Dracula and Cinderella, used by Warhol's crowd.
Songs for Drella offers a kind of vie romancée of Warhol, focusing on his interpersonal relations. The songs fall roughly into three categories: Warhol's (semi-fictitious) first-person perspective, third-person narratives chronicling events and affairs, and first-person feelings towards and commentaries on Warhol by Reed and Cale themselves. On Drella, Reed apologizes to a departed Warhol and comes to terms with his part in their personal conflict.
Reed and Cale had been playing the songs live in 1989 as a song cycle before committing them to tape. By the end of recording Cale vowed never to work with Reed again due to personal differences; nevertheless, Songs for Drella would prove to be the overture to a full-blown Velvet Underground reunion.
Although the album was conceived as an indivisible whole, a single was released off it, "Nobody But You".
On the twentieth anniversary of his death The Gershwin Hotel in New York City held a week-long series of events commemorating Warhol's art and his superstars. There was an award ceremony, a fashion show, and Blondie performed at the closing party. At the same time, The Carrozzini von Buhler Gallery in New York City held an exhibit titled, Andy Warhol: In His Wake. The exhibit featured the art of Warhol's superstars Ultra Violet, Billy Name, Taylor Mead, and Ivy Nicholson as well as art by a younger generation of artists who have been inspired by Warhol. One interactive sculpture in the exhibit, The Great Warhola, by Cynthia von Buhler, depicted Warhol as an arcade fortune-telling machine. The gallery was transformed to look like Warhol's silver factory. Factory Girl, a film about the life of Edie Sedgwick, starring Sienna Miller and Hayden Christensen, was also released one week before the anniversary of Warhol's death.