Andy Warhol (b. 1928, d. 1987)
Born: August 6, 1928
Died: February 22, 1987
Media: Painting, Graphic Art, Filmmaking, Publishing, Sculpture
Movement: Pop Art
One of the most influential figures in contemporary art and culture, the American artist Andy Warhol is synonymous with the Pop Art movement. He worked as a painter, graphic artist, sculptor, filmmaker and producer. He is one of the cultural icons of the 20th century.
Warhol was born in Pittsburgh on August 6, 1928, to parents who had immigrated to the United States from Slovakia. Originally, his name was Andrej Varhola, Jr., which was Americanized to Andrew Warhol. As a child, he contracted St Vitus’ Dance, a disease afflicting the nervous system which affected himboth physicallyand emotionally. He had to undergo long periods of bed rest and was isolated in school. In the time he spent recuperating, he cultivated an interest in drawing. He also liked to collect pictures of film stars.
After high school, Warhol enrolled in the Carnegie Institute of Technology, Pittsburgh, to study commercial art.In 1949, he graduated with a major in Pictorial Design.
Warhol moved to New York City in 1949 to work as a magazine illustrator and advertising draughtsman. He pioneered the use of the silkscreen printmaking process in painting and came to prominence in the advertising world for the blotted line technique, which he had developed while studying at college. In addition to creating illustrations for advertisements, Warhol illustrated books, album covers and promotional material for the RCA record label. In the early 1950s, he started showing his work in galleries and later went on to debut at theFerus Gallery in Los Angeles, in July 1962, followed by his first New York solo presentation at the Stable Gallery in November that same year.
By the 1960s, Warhol adopted in his art the imagery of everyday yet iconic ‘American’ objects such as the dollar bill, Coca Cola bottles and Campbell’s soup cans. Through these images, he decided to explore and celebrate the concept of consumerism. He became a proponent of the idea that art should be for everybody not just the moneyed classes, and by elevating the status of mundane objects to art subjects, he brought about a huge mindset shift in how art was created as well as perceived. This gave birth to the Pop Art movement in America, which challenged traditional notions of art by turning to popular culture for inspiration. The images that Warhol, and his peers,favoured were taken from the worlds of advertising, news, film, celebrity and the public domain, and denoted a hard-edged realism that turned its back on the emotional tenor of Abstract Expressionism. Without altering their essential character, Warhol used celebrity photographs from popular publications, most famously those of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis, and material from ads made for mass consumer products to create art.He created his famous ‘Death and Disaster’ series of silkscreen paintings that used the images of car crashes and disaster scenes. Although there was already a select group of artists in the United Kingdom who were drawing inspiration from mass culture, Warhol was one of the pioneers of the movement in America, and instrumental in giving it its definitive form.
During the 1960s, Warhol founded his celebrated studio, The Factory, where he not only worked on his paintings, prints and abstract films, but also collected a coterie of writers, musicians, artists and countercultureeccentrics. It became a meeting place for the all who admired and were admired by Warhol. A highlight from this period was the 1964 show ‘The American Supermarket’ at Paul Bianchini’s Gallery on the Upper East Side, which presented an installation of objects fabricated by six Pop Art artists that had been put together to resemble a small supermarket, including Warhol’s paintings of the Campbell’s Soup cans as well as cans that were autographed by him.The event was aimed at upturning the notion of art as an exclusive, elitist indulgence, by bringing it down to the masses.
During this period, Warholtook the creative world by storm. He used assistants to produce silk screen multiples of his artwork, sometimes with variations, and sold many prints of his famous paintings. This exercise challenged, and in a way mocked, the significance of the ‘artist’s hand’ in the creation of a valuable piece of art. His Rorschach inkblots and oxidation (or ‘piss’) paintings were produced in these years.He adopted and promoted the band The Velvet Underground. He created album cover art for various bands including The Rolling Stones. He founded the gossip magazine ‘Interview’ and self-published many books. He made a number of abstract films, featuring his bohemian friends and associates from The Factory. He collected around him a clique of New Yorkers, who besides appearing in his films, were often seen partying with him. Various members from this clique served as his muse at different points, and were labeledand promoted as ‘Superstars’ by the artist; the most well known of these ‘Warhol Superstars’ was socialite and model Edie Sedgwick.
Warhol toyed with the concepts of art and celebrity and redefined them for an entire generation. He delivered the famous dictum: “In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes”.
Asocial gadfly who haunted clubs like Max’s Kansas City and Studio 54, Warhol constantly mingled with the stars of the New York underground art, music, and cinema worlds, and he reveled in the attention of the paparazzi. He founded the New York Academy of Art in 1979. And then after a relatively quiet decade in the 1970s, Warhol received both critical and commercial success in the 1980s and he also began collaborating with younger artists.
For all his commercial success, Warhol’s life was not free of controversy. On June 3, 1968, Warhol was seriously injured after being shot by Valerie Solanas, an actress and scriptwriter who had featured in the Warhol film “I, a Man”. She later revealed that she shot Warhol because he ‘had too much control’ over her life.
Ever since Campbell’s soup cans and Brillo boxes attracted interest and criticism in the early 1960s, art critics have remained stubbornly divided over the significance of his legacy. Of all the postwar artists, however, Warhol was the one whose work and artistic philosophyveered in a wholly new direction in relation to previous art history. His rise to fame and considerable commercial success demonstrates an artistic vision powerful enough to tap into and resonate with the spirit of America’s postwar consumer society.
He died in February 22, 1987, while recovering from a gallbladder operation. Even 25 years after his death, Warhol’s work continues to dominate the contemporary art market, accounting for a sixth of all sales.
Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1989
NeueNationalgalerie, Berlin, Germany, 2001
Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea, 2007
See his work at:
MINNEAPOLIS: Walker Art Center
MISSOURI: Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art
NEW MEXICO: University of New Mexico Art Museum
NEW YORK: Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Metropolitan Museum of Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
PITTSBURGH: The Andy Warhol Museum
LOTS SOLD (1989 - 2009)
TOTAL SALES (1989 - 2009)
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