Andy Warhol (real name Andrew Warhola) was an American artist, filmmaker and publisher as well as co-founder and most important representative of American Pop Art. His career began as early as the 1950s as a graphic designer and illustrator for fashion, glossy and lifestyle magazines and developed rapidly. He left behind an extensive body of work, ranging from simple advertising graphics to paintings, objects, films and books. He was also active as a music producer.
Childhood and education
Andy Warhol was the youngest of three sons of a poor peasant family with Lemko-Ruthenian (in more recent terminology and more precisely: Russian) roots. His parents Ondrej Varhola (1892-1972), were immigrants from the village of Miková near Medzilaborce in the Carpathians, in the northeast of today”s Slovakia (then: Kingdom of Hungary). His birth name was Andrew Warhola, but he later further Americanized it. He was baptized a Greek Catholic.
Andy Warhol liked to flirt with his date of birth and occasionally “tapered” to the year 1930, sometimes even to 1933, which is why biographies often contain the most varied information; however, he professed his birthplace Pittsburgh in the US state of Pennsylvania. There he was born at 73 Orr Street.
In 1934, the family left their two-room apartment in the poor Soho neighborhood and moved into their own one-story brick house at 3252 Dawson Street in the South Oakland neighborhood.
At the age of eight, Warhol contracted chorea minor, coupled with a rare pigment disorder, so that he was long thought to be an albino. The bedridden child quickly developed a passion for comics and movies, and began drawing and cutting out paper figures. During this time, Warhol developed an intense bond with his mother Julia.
From 1945 to 1949, Warhol studied commercial art at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, now Carnegie Mellon University, and graduated with a degree in painting and design. After graduating, he moved with fellow student, artist Philip Pearlstein, to New York, which was not only a literary and artistic center, but also a stronghold of advertising. In the late 1940s, Warhol worked in a shoe factory. On his way to work, he was approached by Alexander Iolas, who saw him every day through the window of his gallery; the contact later resulted in Warhol”s first exhibition.
Beginnings and development of screen printing (until the end of the 1960s)
In the early 1950s, Warhol lived off odd jobs as a commercial artist and window dresser or selling fruits and vegetables on the street. In February 1950, Mademoiselle magazine published drawings signed “Andy Warhol.” Andrew Warhola had become Andy Warhol. During this time, he developed his technique of “drop and dripping” – a method that anticipated his later silkscreen prints: motifs of angels, cherubs, butterflies, or cats drawn in ink were copied with blotting paper and transferred to a new sheet. In collaboration with the designer Suzie Frankfurt, this resulted in a wide variety of contributions for journals and magazines, as well as greeting cards, giveaways, and humorous cookbooks (Wild Raspberries, 1959). At so-called “coloring parties” he invited friends and guests to help color his works – which already hinted at the later serial “factory-like” production method of his works and films by collaborators.
In 1952, Warhol asked Alexander Iolas, director of the Hugo Gallery, for a solo exhibition. Warhol submitted his sketchbook to the Greek, whom he had already met in 1945. However, since the season was already considered closed, Iolas had already packed his bags to travel to Europe like most prominent New Yorkers at that time of year. He organized an exception, however, by asking the owner of a nearby bookstore to supervise the exhibition due to a lack of staff. In 1956, Warhol then exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York – but both times as a graphic artist, not as a visual artist.
Paintings and silkscreens
Although Warhol was extremely successful as an industrial and commercial artist – at the end of the 1950s he was one of the best-paid graphic designers in Manhattan – he soon chose the artistic path and sought new ideas for his paintings on canvas. Warhol concentrated on trivial pop culture subjects; Hollywood stars, comic and cartoon motifs, such as Mickey Mouse, Popeye or Superman, which he initially produced and reproduced by hand. With these images taken from the advertising scene, he consciously distanced himself from the Abstract Expressionism of a Mark Rothko or Barnett Newman or the Action Paintings of a Jackson Pollock. Resigned, however, he soon had to realize that fellow artists such as Roy Lichtenstein or Robert Rauschenberg were already grazing the terrain with similar motifs. He established a connection to his earlier life by conceiving a shop window collection from the “discarded” works still painted by hand for the Bonwit Teller department store on New York”s 5th Avenue, and by turning to a new technique.
In the early 1960s, he familiarized himself with screen printing and began to intensively cut out and collect images from flyers, movie magazines, and magazines such as Life or Time magazine in order to use them for his paintings in the sense of “mixed media”. Characteristic of the following period of his work is the use of widespread motifs familiar to every American (mostly from commercial advertising and press photos), from which he had silkscreens made and then repeated serially (quote: “I love to do the same thing over and over again” – “I love to do the same thing over and over again”). A typical work title of the time is Thirty Are Better Than One: A postcard of the Mona Lisa was reproduced thirty times on canvas and was therefore better than just one – the original counts less than the quantitative reproduction (multiple).
In 1962, Warhol had his first solo exhibition as an artist with Campbell”s Soup Cans at the invitation of Irving Blum, then a partner at Walter Hopps” Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles (July 9 to August 4, 1962). He made 32 almost identical paintings because the canned soup came in 32 different flavors.
At first these paintings were met with total incomprehension, only five buyers recognized the revolutionary innovation of Warhol”s point of view; one of them was the actor Dennis Hopper, the other Donald Factor, a later partial heir to the Max Factor corporation. None of the buyers received their painting, for which each would have paid $100, because Irving Blum, in consultation with Andy Warhol, wanted to keep the ensemble together, and after the exhibition bought the paintings for $100,000, although Warhol wanted only $1,000 for the 32 paintings. In 1996, they were sold to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City for $15 million.
One of the most famous works from this period is probably the image of a cinema statue from the film Niagara with Marilyn Monroe, which Warhol processed over the years in many color variations. Countless “Elvises,” “James Deans” and “Liz Taylors” were to follow. All of these images, however, show one thing clearly: they represent deliberately chosen and further processed excerpts of the originals. Warhol”s often quoted bon mot, after he no longer paints and his models are already all there, so he himself no longer produces art, but this itself, the artist in the traditional understanding no longer exists, must be evaluated under this aspect. It is the selection, the design, and the concept on which it is based that decisively shapes the work. Warhol”s unerring sense for the effects produced by an appropriate design and color scheme, acquired during his years as a commercial artist, form the consistently developed biographical and aesthetic basis. Accordingly, Warhol”s tactics of obfuscation, recurrent in interviews, include the claim that these works were partly made only on his instructions by his young collaborator, the trained screen printer and poet Gerard Malanga (Salvador Dalí, for example, had previously claimed something similar about his working methods).
Warhol used anything from popular culture that he somehow felt was “glamorous” or reinterpreted that way – even if it was, as in his famous very first series, a Campbell”s soup can. Through the “Death and Disaster” series he began in 1962, in which he used press photos of deaths in car accidents, disasters, and electric chairs (see Electric Chair) and distorted them with small retouchings, he made the technical manipulability of the experience of reality the subject of painting. In this way, he demonstrated that the aesthetically prepared and reproduced horror becomes consumable. Art critics also soon recognized that these paintings had tremendous aesthetic appeal: Through their seriality, they drew attention away from the motif and toward the way the originals were made, thereby revealing the manipulative nature of the popular culture of our time – we are all guided in our perceptions by the mass media. “In addition, the paintings had their visual appeal in that they altered the original originals through garish coloring and deliberately sloppy application of paint in such a way that a quasi “cinematic” viewing became possible. Warhol”s paintings were celebrated as a sensation on the art market from 1965 at the latest.”
He worked on a wide variety of projects in his studios, which he founded in 1962 and called “factories,” various factory buildings in New York. The factories were Warhol”s experimental field: studio, film studio, and “party location” with a subsequent “place of residence” for the protagonists. At the same time, they formed the pool of New York”s creative scene. Stars like Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger or Jim Morrison found themselves here, as did fellow artists like Salvador Dalí or Marcel Duchamp.
Warhol initially specialized in screen printing. The source material for this was mostly images from the media, such as Life magazine or film, post and autograph cards. Later, he preferred to use his own Polaroid photographs for his works. However, many of Warhol”s paintings were executed not only by himself, but also by his assistants, such as Gerard Malanga. Famous are the three-dimensional Brillo boxes (silk-screen prints of a cleaning agent on wooden boxes), the Campbell soup cans, countless Marilyn Monroe portraits (some made negatively) (as a serial repetition) or the series of car crashes, skulls or electric chairs made in the tradition of a memento mori. Preferably, he chose 100 by 100 centimeter canvases for his works. Meanwhile, in his search for new material, Warhol, an obsessive cinephile, increasingly turned to his own film production. Probably inspired by filmmakers of the Film-makers” Cooperative such as Jonas Mekas, he acquired a Bolex 16-mm camera and began filming employees of his factory, celebrities and strangers in every conceivable situation. Well-known from the 1960s period are underground films such as Empire, an eight-hour portrait of the Empire State Building in a single camera shot, or Eat, a 45-minute film showing Pop artist Robert Indiana eating mushrooms, and countless so-called Screen Tests (together with Malanga). With the rock group The Velvet Underground, which he promoted and initially also produced, he conceived the multimedia happenings (“Exploding Plastic Inevitable”), which were pretentious to scandalous at the time. On the one hand, the audience was “worn out” by the deafening amplifier noise of the rock group, film projections and intense light and stroboscopic effects. On the other hand, the performances shocked with the sexual provocations of the dancing actors (mostly Gerard Malanga and the actresses Mary Woronov and Edie Sedgwick, respectively).
After the assassination of women”s rights activist Valerie Solanas in 1968, the artist took it easy: The “Factory” was transformed into an office building, and he increasingly saw himself as a film producer.
In the 1970s he was an enthusiastic visitor to the New York party and glamour scene, e.g. Studio 54, where he increasingly portrayed celebrities on Polaroid photographs. Well known from this period are his films with junkies bordering on pornography (Flesh, Trash, Blue Movie), the direction of which, however, he increasingly left to Paul Morrissey.
Camp films such as the Western persiflage Lonesome Cowboys or the horror films Flesh for FrankensteinAndy Warhol”s Frankenstein and Blood for DraculaAndy Warhol”s Dracula were largely directed by Paul Morrissey, with actor Joe Dallesandro almost always part of the cast. They exaggerated and transcended their respective genres, in the case of Lonesome Cowboys, for example, through improvised acting and homosexual cowboys, and in the case of Blood for Dracula, through Udo Kier as the wimpy Count Dracula, who aroused pity rather than instilled fear in his search for a virgin.
The world-famous tongue logo, the Rolling Stones” trademark, was not designed by Andy Warhol, contrary to many popular opinions, but by designer John Pasche. Warhol designed the record cover of the LP Sticky Fingers with shots of Joe Dallesandro”s lower body. The tongue logo was first published on an insert sheet for this record.
Andy Warhol concentrated on his second passion, film, from the early 1960s onward. Since he moved to his second studio, the Factory, at the end of 1963, this huge studio in the middle of Manhattan became a center of attraction for the New York bohemian scene. Dancers, transvestites, would-be actors, painters, musicians, everything gradually gathered here; Warhol allowed everything and everyone to live out their passions. And he documented all this with a film camera (later also with Polaroids). Using a Bolex cine camera, he began systematically taking pictures of visitors, artist friends and other celebrities (e.g. Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, Marcel Duchamp and Salvador Dalí). Anyone was welcome as a subject for the Screen Tests (“test shots”). Hundreds of films, only partially published to this day, were made on the same principle: the subject sat on a chair and was illuminated by a bright lamp while Warhol turned on the camera and walked away, leaving the “actor” alone with the lens in front of his face for three minutes, the length of time it took the film roll to complete one pass. The results of the settings ranged across all moods and emotional states. A sophisticated lighting technique with harsh drop shadows made these shots significant meditative documents of the late modern era.
Together with the Factory team, especially his assistant Gerard Malanga and the photographer Billy Name, Warhol also shot a large number of feature films in mass production. Inspired by screenings at the Film-Makers” Cinematheque, the forum for underground films in New York under the auspices of Jonas Mekas, Warhol developed his very own film language in the process. Typical of the early films is the still camera, which mercilessly captures a single object or action without any editing for hours. “Sleep,” the first film, documents beat poet John Giorno sleeping for over four hours, “Eat” fellow painter Robert Indiana munching on a mushroom with relish. The highlight of this series is certainly “Empire,” which shows the Empire State Building from nightfall until deep into the night – for eight hours.
Numerous films had more plot. There were enough self-promoters in the Factory, just waiting to be filmed and expose themselves on camera. Mario Montez, a Puerto Rican transvestite, gave a performance as “Harlot” and “Hedy” (Hedy Lamarr); “Blow Job” showed the head and torso of a young man visibly (but not visibly) enjoying the pleasures of fellatio. “Couch,” the best-known film in this series, features a colorful ringlet of mostly stark naked male (and a few female) performers in a wide variety of pairings. On the one hand, the focus on the world of homosexuality in all its varieties becomes clear here, on the other hand the voyeurism of Warhol, who never openly lived out his own homosexuality. The second phase of Warhol”s filmmaking is characterized by his collaboration with screenwriter Ronald Tavel, who, influenced by the theater of the absurd, spiced up the plots and dialogues with a good dose of comedy and camp aesthetics.
In ironic exaggeration and as an underground alternative to the well-known Hollywood actors, the “stars,” Warhol called his actors superstars. This primarily referred to the women in his films. His first real “superstar” was the young talent and model Edie Sedgwick, a filthy rich girl from a good family on the wrong track. With her he appeared in public, sometimes in the same outfit (silver-dyed hair), especially at parties, of which he ticked off up to six a night with his whole troupe. The affair Sedgwick lasted only a year, because due to her drug use, their problems took over and she lost control of herself. She joined Bob Dylan. Warhol”s most famous, and perhaps best, film from this period is The Chelsea Girls from 1966, which shows – partly in black and white, partly in color – various Factory protagonists as residents of the legendary Chelsea Hotel in Chelsea (Manhattan). Drug excesses, psychoses, exhibitionism and sexual escapades are mercilessly paraded. At its time, hovering at the height of hippie euphoria, the film was a jet-black, disturbing document of New York”s urban counterculture, pitting heroin and speed against hash and LSD.
Towards the end of the 1960s, all this came to an abrupt end: the mentally deranged women”s rights activist Valerie Solanas (she had played a tiny supporting role in one of Warhol”s films) made an assassination attempt on Warhol, who was at the time shooting his film “Blue Movie” (superstar “Viva” having sex for hours with Louis Waldon). The painter had to go to the hospital, and in the following years he left the direction to his collaborator Paul Morrissey. The latter made completely different, commercially oriented feature films, for which Warhol only gave the name. In contrast to the early experimental films, these were shown in the U.S. and throughout Europe. Warhol is famous for these today.
According to the latest estimates from the Whitney Museum of American Art, which houses the film estate, Warhol made more than 400 screen tests, nearly 280 films and more than 4,000 videos during his lifetime.
More art projects
Warhol also explored new territories beyond painting and film. He recognized the trends of contemporary art very early on and remodeled them into his own thing. For example, he sponsored the rock group The Velvet Underground by letting them rehearse at the Factory (Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison and Maureen Tucker had been kicked out of all the earlier practice rooms, pubs and apartments because they were brutally loud), and he financed their first record as “producer.” To do this, he brought the German model Nico into the studio.
The band”s live performances are legendary, and Warhol as mastermind was the first to use many novel means for the lightshow that are now commonplace: Stroboscope and mirror ball, slide and film projections, color filters and overlays. The band basically performed only in black clothes and sunglasses. The performances, called Exploding Plastic Inevitable, were sensational multimedia happenings, with Malanga, Eric Emerson and Mary Woronov performing their “whip dance”. As in his films, Warhol documented the “dark side” of contemporary rock music with his band.
As a photographer, Warhol worked tirelessly. Everything and everyone was portrayed. With his Polaroid instant cameras he captured what was happening around him, in his estate there are tens of thousands of photos that have never been shown to the public.
Warhol also tried his hand at writing books. Since he not only photographed, filmed and painted a lot, but also made tape recordings, he came up with the idea of following a person from his environment for 24 hours (probably alluding to James Joyce”s Ulysses) with a microphone and recording everything he said. He found this person in “Ondine” (Robert Olivo), a notorious speed freak who yapped non-stop when he had taken drugs again – which was the permanent state with him. The recordings, in truth not made at a stretch but over several months, constitute an unreadable document of folly. Hours of monologues, alternating with aggressive conversations, to which Edie Sedgwick, Lou Reed and others also contributed, have been completely amateurishly typed out by visitors who happened to be present in the Factory. The book bristles with errors, but that”s exactly what Warhol wanted. When the publisher”s editor objected, Warhol declared the book a work of art, and with it all the errors, inconsistencies, gaps, and jumbled passages. The title of the book is program: A: A Novel, where “A” stands for amphetamine, the effects of which it documents.
It is hardly known that he even “wrote” a play. In 1971, the play Pork was staged in New York and London (directed by Anthony J. Ingrassia), based on tape recordings of telephone conversations between Warhol and Brigid Berlin. The play, which was reportedly 29 acts and 200 hours long at first, caused confusion and anger everywhere because it seemed to be a below-the-belt reckoning with Warhol”s own superstars. The title Pork, “pig,” is a corruption of the alias name Brigid Polk, Billy Name became Billy Noname, “Viva” became Vulva, the actions of the mostly nude performers were obscene. Nevertheless, it ran at London”s The Roundhouse for over a year.
The assassination and the time after
After an assassination attempt by radical feminist Valerie Solanas on June 3, 1968, in which Warhol was critically wounded by multiple gunshot wounds and had to spend a long time in the hospital, both his open dealings with Factory employees and visitors and the artist”s work changed: he concentrated more on his paintings and silkscreens again and later even marketed the works shot up in the Solanas assassination (“Elvis Lives,” “Shot Marilyn”). The story of the Solanas assassination was made into a film in 1996 under the title I Shot Andy Warhol.
Warhol”s new studio in Union Square had been monitored by cameras since the assassination. He increasingly left business matters to his employees; he soon put the young up-and-comer Frederick Hughes on the management staff of his art machinery, while Morrissey continued to take care of film production. Warhol had his gunshot wounds photographed by the American star photographer Richard Avedon. The Factory eventually transformed from the hip “scene location” into a normal office floor. The employees of the first hours, Gerard Malanga and Billy Name disappeared from the Factory after disagreements. Hughes came from a good family and had excellent connections to Texan oil industrialists and art collectors, such as Dominique de Ménil. In the following years, they repeatedly provided Warhol with portrait commissions and drove up the prices for his paintings.
After his own “party refuge” was destroyed by the assassination attempt, Warhol himself increasingly threw himself into the commercial party scene in the early 1970s and was soon one of the regulars at Studio 54, one of New York”s most frequented discos at the time. There, high society met in the basement room and snorted cocaine, which was still extremely expensive at the time. Art critics had repeatedly accused Warhol of having “sold out” during this period. The (non-political) contact with thoroughly dubious figures from the surroundings of the Shah of Persia or the Philippine dictator Marcos was not very conducive to a good image. In 1972 his beloved mother Julia died; another occasion for the artist to deal with the subject of death in a series of silkscreens (the Vanitas series “Skulls”, “Shadows” etc.). Privately, the artist withdrew more and more to his New York townhouse, where he lived for over ten years with his partner Jed Johnson.
As the 1970s progressed, Warhol began to turn art into commerce (in his own sense): He portrayed, as if on an assembly line, anyone who paid him the appropriate fee. He painted vehicles of car companies like BMW or Mercedes-Benz and was always a welcome guest in video and television productions. He photographed his (mostly prominent and wealthy) clients in his sessions (sessions) with the Polaroid camera, which he then gave to expose the printing stencils for his screen prints. Increasingly, moreover, he concentrated on colportage, made endless tape recordings, and uninhibitedly and indiscriminately photographed stars and starlets of the New York scene for his magazine Interview, which he founded in November 1969. He and his staff relished relentlessly compromising their often intoxicated or drug-addled interviewees with the articles and photographs in their magazine.
All of this is significant for the development of postmodern aesthetics, and here, too, Warhol must be accorded the role of a pioneer: The apparent indiscriminateness reflects the overflowing, ever more differentiating and ever more unmanageable flow of communication in the information society. Warhol always tried out the latest because it offered itself to him. His importance as an artist lies largely in the fact that he was quick to recognize the possibilities of new aesthetic modes of expression; he was a pioneer of video film, for example (here, too, there are hundreds of hours of material completely unknown to this day), and he aestheticized his newfound social role as a focal point for gossip by founding Interview magazine, the first ever lifestyle magazine. As a portrait painter, he created a cohesive series that is art historically in the tradition of a Velazquez and courtly painting. That he was fully aware of all this is documented by the “Time Capsules” (time capsules), which have only become known in recent years and which he began to create in the early 1970s. Until his death, Warhol filled a total of about 600 moving boxes with everything that was important or less important to him. From this, fantastic time documents have been created, whose special charm is only now and will be revealed in the decades to come.
In May 1979, Warhol, who was showing his new paintings at the Hans Mayer Gallery in Düsseldorf, met the German sculptor Joseph Beuys for the first time. Both artists saw each other again in 1980. The occasion was the exhibition Joseph Beuys by Andy Warhol, which took place on April 1, 1980 at the Lucio Amelio Gallery in Naples, and featured nine silkscreen portraits entitled Joseph Beuys, which Warhol had produced of Beuys following a meeting in New York based on Polaroid photographs.
In the 1980s Warhol worked with artist friends such as Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Francesco Clemente. During this phase, several joint paintings were created. Each artist worked here in his own technique and combined them on a canvas. On January 12, 1985 Warhol, together with Joseph Beuys and the Japanese artist Kaii Higashiyama participated in the “Global-Art-Fusion” project. This was an intercontinental FAX-ART project initiated by the conceptual artist Ueli Fuchser, in which a fax with drawings by all three participating artists was sent around the world within 32 minutes and received at the Museum Moderner Kunst, in the Palais-Liechtenstein in Vienna. This fax was intended as a sign of peace during the Cold War.
His last thematic group of works with large-scale works was created at the request of the gallery owner and friend Alexander Iolas in discussion with the mural painted in secco technique L”Ultima Cena (The Last Supper), which Leonardo da Vinci painted between 1494 and 1497 on the north wall of the refectory of the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. Warhol”s exhibition took place across the street from the church in the Palazzo delle Stelline Milan in 1987. The huge cycle of paintings includes over 100 paintings traditionally painted with a brush and silkscreened, some of which are over 4 × 10 meters in size. The mischievousness was on Warhol”s neck until the very end: The Last Suppers is not a preoccupation with the original, but rather a reworking of a kitschy plaster sculpture he found in a junk store in Little Italy. The last exhibition during his lifetime was created for the gallery owner who had given Warhol his first solo exhibition in New York in 1952.
On the morning of February 22, 1987, Warhol died unexpectedly and under still unexplained circumstances from complications of a gall bladder operation at New York Hospital in Manhattan. He was buried in the closest family circle in his birthplace Pittsburgh. With a mass in the St. Patrick”s Cathedral the artist was commemorated under participation of over 2000 mourners, among them were Raquel Welch, Bianca Jagger, Grace Jones, Deborah Harry and Claus von Bülow.
In his will, Fred Hughes was designated as the executor of his estate. As the main heir to his fortune – New York Magazine estimated it at over 100 million U.S. dollars at the time – the artist had designated, in addition to family members, the establishment of the Andy Warhol Foundation for Visual Arts. Apart from the auction of devotional objects, the works from Warhol”s private collection of his artist colleagues such as Cy Twombly or Rauschenberg alone brought several million dollars.
In 1999 an asteroid was named after Andy Warhol: (6701) Warhol. The Mercury crater Warhol on the southern hemisphere of the planet Mercury also bears his name since 2012.
Andy Warhol was an introverted, shy and obscure personality. He did not live his homosexuality publicly, although he did not deny it when asked about it. By elevating (male) homosexuality to one of the central fixed points of his work throughout his life, he promoted the examination of the subject.
In the 1960s, he usually appeared with a white-blond, partially silver-colored wig and dark sunglasses. Warhol revealed little of himself, was taciturn and stylized himself as a sphinx and icon of the New York art scene. The writer Truman Capote called him a “sphinx without a secret”. In interviews and conversations, he cleverly evaded expectations about himself and consistently practiced building up the “Andy Warhol” myth. Once he even sent a double (Allen Midgette) to public lectures at universities and press appointments. He had a very close bond with his mother, who lived with him in New York. He was religious, but this too in his own unique way. After his death, it became known that he had more intensive contact with the parish church of St. Vincent Ferrer on the Upper Eastside, and in later years participated in feeding the poor at Christmas.
After the 1968 assassination, Warhol was a different man: he had since been prone to an obsessive buying and collecting mania, which was reflected both in his work and in his private life. Although the artist suffered throughout his life from the fear of becoming impoverished again, there was hardly a flea market in New York that was spared him and at which he did not “have to” buy at least one object, as he once described it in his notes. He was one of the first to rediscover the qualities of Art Deco and bought watches, brooches and furniture from that period. Warhol”s spacious private home was a single collection of historic artworks and works by contemporary fellow artists such as Lichtenstein, Rauschenberg, and Twombly, as well as valuable furniture, vast quantities of kitsch objects (Mickey Mouse figurines, for example), fine and cheap porcelain, lost and found objects, bubble gum machines, and much more. According to press articles, the auction of his estate is said to have fetched around 900 million US dollars.
In his diary entries, published posthumously in 1989 by his secretary and close confidant Pat Hackett, one learns more about the man Andy Warhol and his true personality. If one interprets the book, Warhol must have suffered increasingly in the late 1980s from fears of diseases such as AIDS, which he himself called “gay cancer,” the consequences of the assassination, and gradual loneliness caused by his failed relationships. Warhol also became superstitious, escalating into hypochondria and falling for some quacks, faith healers, and “stone therapists.” What stood out about Warhol, however, was his equally laconic and cynical approach to death throughout his life: when his first “muse” Edie Sedgwick and other employees of his Factory died, he hardly showed any emotion. He himself complained about his increasing physical complaints until the end, but never did so publicly. This contradicted the image he wanted to leave to the outside world: “I always wanted to be a machine.
Warhol”s pictorial works live from an experimental and luminescent coloring (mostly by means of acrylic colors), in which he consciously relied on generative alienation and also stoically accepted errors in copying templates or left the production of the silkscreens to his collaborators. Many works, however, probably did not even come from his hand. When visiting galleries or museums, he is said to have been amused by forgeries of his own works. His work is marked by originality, subtle humor, but also cynicism; whether it”s his do-it-yourself paintings to color yourself, camouflage patterns, inversions, or the Electric Chair series of paintings, of which he is reported to have said, “I”ll make them in any color as long as they match the drapes.”
Warhol”s work was always characterized by the serial reproduction, or reproducibility, of pictorial objects, the everyday, the trivial, and the banal. Always fascinated by the idea of “copying” and consistent sequence (partly due to his passion for film), Warhol first tried to copy images from cinema magazines by hand. Subsequently, he became familiar with the method of indirect silkscreen (transfer printing) and began to filter and transpose everyday, contemporary and familiar motifs from media (newspapers, magazines). For this reason, Warhol was often accused of plagiarism. He preferred to use garish acrylic colors and strong color contrasts for his paintings (e.g. Marilyn, Elvis, Liz). From the 1970s, Warhol increasingly sought new techniques and forms of expression (e.g., the Piss Paintings, pictures “painted” with urine by oxidation on copper paint). In his later works, he also used diamond dust in his works, among other things (e.g., the portrait series of Joseph Beuys).
His portraits of famous personalities (Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Liz Taylor, Mao and many others) are predominant. However, he was also interested in the aesthetics of the commodity and consumer society, whereby consumption was viewed positively by him. It is debatable whether this represented a variant of over-identification, as did many of his statements. He loved artificiality and sophisticated colportage, and (as a skilled graphic designer) cleverly managed to invent and celebrate himself as an image brand. His work follows the constant attempt to erase the boundaries between art and commerce, that is, commercially applied art (advertising, design) and fine art (high culture). He represented the ideal of a business art.
Museums for Warhol
In 1991, the Andy Warhol Museum of Modern Art was founded in Medzilaborce, Slovakia, by Warhol”s brother John Warhola (1925-2010), the Slovak Minister of Culture, and the Warhol Foundation, New York. It contains several originals and personal items donated by the Warhol Foundation and his relatives. The 2001 documentary film Absolut Warhola by Polish director Stanisław Mucha is dedicated to this museum and the Medzilaborce area.
Another museum, The Andy Warhol Museum, opened its exhibition rooms in 1994, spread over seven floors, in Pittsburgh, the city of his birth. The collection includes 900 paintings, about 100 sculptures, almost 2000 works on paper, more than 1000 prints, 4000 photographs, as well as an extensive film and video collection and extensive archival materials.
For Warhol”s 85th birthday in 2013, the Andy Warhol Museum broadcast a live video stream from the artist”s grave. The project is titled “Figment,” based on a saying by Warhol that he didn”t want to get an epitaph, but simply wanted to be ”Figment”. The webcam is to be on the air continuously, according to museum director Eric Shiner “…a fantastic way to keep Andy on the air and connected to our global audience 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
Warhol”s contribution to the establishment of Pop Art in the visual, performing, and cinematographic arts in the 1960s is significant.
According to the judgment of the German art critic Klaus Honnef, nothing Warhol had created was unknown; he had invented nothing except the star Andy Warhol.
Philip Ursprung noted, “Warhol”s work is interpreted as a machinic persiflage of consumer society, sometimes infused with rapturous and homoerotic allusions, such as his early prints and later films. On the other hand, his self-description as a “business artist” has been received quite critically. He countered the image of the autonomous artist who determines his own commissions with the image of an artist who is permanently at the service of others.” Thus he portrayed anyone who was willing to pay $25,000.
According to Dieter Buchhart, it remains controversial to this day whether Warhol”s work depicts the capitalist consumer world in an affirmative or ironic-devotional manner. “While the established, modernist critics (Clement Greenberg, Harold Rosenberg, Herbert Read) denounced Pop Art as a part of the culture industry, the new, postmodernist art critics celebrated in Warhol”s works the affirmation of American consumer culture and the abolition of the demarcation between autonomous and trivial art. A third position was held by the countercultural movement of the beatniks and student movement; they wanted to see in it a critique of the American affluent society and an ironic treatment of the stars of show business.”
One of Warhol”s mottoes was: “Good business is the best art. The artist as a capitalist entrepreneur in his own cause inspired artists such as Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami, Damien Hirst, Richard Prince, and Keith Haring, for example, who took up Warhol”s strategies and developed them further.
Lou Reed and John Cale, former members of The Velvet Underground, dedicated the tribute album Songs for Drella to Warhol in 1990. The album”s 15 tracks reflect stages in Warhol”s life as well as aspects of his personality and creative work.
David Bowie admired Warhol since the 1960s and called him one of his great sources of inspiration. In 1971 he wrote the song Andy Warhol, which appeared on his studio album Hunky Dory that same year; in September of that year he visited Warhol at his Factory and played him the song. According to Warhol biographer Victor Bockris, Warhol was not particularly enthusiastic: “David Bowie said the song was meant to be positive. But Andy thought it was hideous … Andy looks like a scream … of course he didn”t like a line like that because he had great complexes about his appearance.” In 1996, Bowie himself impersonated Andy Warhol in Julian Schnabel”s biopic Basquiat.
Rosa von Praunheim included Warhol and several of his superstars (e.g. Holly Woodlawn, Taylor Mead and Jackie Curtis) in some of his films (e.g. Underground and Emigrants, Tally Brown – New York and My New York).
In March 2011, The Andy Monument – a larger-than-life chrome statue of Andy Warhol designed by artist Rob Pruitt – was installed in Union Square in front of the former site of Warhol”s Factory. In fall 2012, it was moved to the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston in Texas, where it remained for six months after its unveiling on October 20.
Andy Warhol”s work Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) fetched more than $105 million (78 million euros) at auction on November 13, 2013. The buyer remained unknown. It is the most expensive work by Warhol. According to Sotheby”s, the previous auction record for a Warhol painting, Green Car Crash – Green Burning Car I, was $71.7 million, auctioned in 2007. Like the current record-breaking painting, it depicts a car crash, only in green instead of silver. The Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) painting is 2.67 meters high and four meters wide. The left side shows 15 silkscreens of a traffic accident, the right side a blank, silver surface. Both are from Warhol”s Death and Disaster series from 1963.
The sale of Warhol works is unpredictable. A few minutes after the record was Liz
In November 2014, two paintings, Triple Elvis and Four Marlons, from the holdings of German casino operator WestSpiel were auctioned at Christie”s in New York. Together they fetched $151.5 million ($81.9 million was for the Elvis portrait.
Andy Warhol was a participant in the 4th documenta in Kassel in 1968 (with Ten Marilyns, shown for the first time in Europe), represented as an artist at Documenta 6 (1977) and Documenta 7 in 1982. A larger selection of solo and group exhibitions can be found under the web link “Art Aspects”.
Fifty years after the Campbell”s Soup Cans (created in 1962), an exhibition entitled Regarding Warhol: “Fifty Years, Sixty Artists” opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in late 2012 to show Warhol”s influence on fellow artists. It included 100 works by 59 artists as well as about 50 of Warhol”s works, including the famous Brillo boxes, portraits of Elvis and Elizabeth Taylor, in addition to the soup cans. The exhibition was criticized by the press for lack of originality.
A major 2013 Andy Warhol exhibition in Southeast Asia also reached Shanghai, People”s Republic of China and had to be subjected to Chinese censorship. It features a curated show of works, but without Mao Zedong images. The Chinese government had the well-known portrait series of the former chairman of the Chinese Communist Party removed. The Mao portrait series shows Mao, alongside Marilyn Monroe and Campbell soup cans, as a commodity, icon or brand.
In winter 201314, the Bank Austria Kunstforum Wien presented a large exhibition of works by Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat. In the years 198485, the two artists created numerous collaborative works that form an impressive and multifaceted field of tension between these so different artistic characters.
In 20142015, the Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz devoted an exhibition exclusively to Andy Warhol”s Death and Disaster for the first time in Europe. In 2017, the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney focused on the artist”s early years in its exhibition Adman: Warhol before pop with over 300 objects.
The group exhibition I”m a Believer. Pop Art and Contemporary Art from the Lenbachhaus and the KiCo Foundation, which was on view at the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus from March 2018 to early May 2020, featured classic positions by Andy Warhol and other renowned artists of the second half of the 20th century. Some of his works are owned by the Munich gallery.
The year numbers refer in each case to versions dated for the first time.
Some of Andy Warhol”s works are difficult to date because they were widely unpublished. Allegedly, they were also “produced” indiscriminately by employees of his Factory. This may be a typical “pop” claim by Warhol himself. Just as he himself is said to have said later that he was amused by the fakes of his own works at exhibitions. Rather, however, the opposite was true: Warhol was obsessed with control. Nothing left his studio that was not approved by himself. It is well known that in 1968 Gerard Malanga offered for sale in Italy “Warhols” forged by him – he knew how they were made. Warhol was informed of this by a Roman gallery owner, Malanga immediately got into big legal trouble and had to issue a cease-and-desist letter.
Note on movies and videos
Warhol produced an innumerable series of films, mostly experimental in character (also known as underground films), some of which are no longer chronologically ascertainable; for example, the film **** (Four Stars) lasted about 24 hours, was shown only once, and then cut up into various individual films. Some films were partially used for Warhol”s Exploding Plastic Inevitable Happeningshows. Since 1968 (after the assassination) Paul Morrissey was the director of the films, Warhol only gave his name to it. Ironically, the most famous films such as Flesh, Trash and Bad were not made by Warhol at all, they are just imitations of the early experimental films.
Differences between original and purchased versions
The video DVDs of the films marked FSK 16 are sometimes heavily cut. Even the versions with the release FSK 18 are, if you can believe the reviews, in individual cases shortened compared to the original version.
Warhol”s appearances in film and television
Warhol himself appeared in numerous television, advertising and video spots in the 1980s (including for the computer company Apple), the introduction of the Amiga computer, as well as in a video by the bands The Cars and Curiosity Killed the Cat, in the TV soap opera The Love Boat or the cinema film Tootsie. On local New York television he had his own TV show Andy Warhol”s Fifteen Minutes for five years.
A scene from the 1991 film The Doors shows Jim Morrison meeting Andy Warhol, played by Crispin Glover. In the 2012 film Men in Black 3, Bill Hader plays the role of Andy Warhol.
Books by Warhol
Directories of works
Andy Warhol entrusted Thomas Ammann with the task of publishing his catalog raisonné in 1977. The publication was delayed until 2002, the third volume appeared in 2010.