Andy Warhol was an American artist and a leading figure in Pop Art. This artist revolutionized art and still influences his contemporaries today. His art work explores the relationship between the cult of celebrity, artistic expression and advertising, a revolutionary style that found its place in the 1960s.
Now we willtell you everything.
From birth to beginnings in advertising
Andy Warhol was born on August 6, 1928 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Czechoslovakian immigrants. Real name was Andrew Warhola.
In 1937, Andrew contracted chorea, an infectious disease that affected the nervous system. Also called St. Vitus dance, this disease forced him to stay in bed for more than two months. A cousin gave the family a Kodak Brownie Box Camera, a device with which young Andrew will take many photographs that he will develop himself in a makeshift workshop in the basement of the house.
In 1938, when he was only ten, Andrew began collecting autographed photos of movie stars that he treasured into albums. He was fond of photography, drawing, magazines and showed an early interest in art. Warhol also had an intense fascination with Hollywood “glamour”. He will even say in the course of his life:
“I love Los Angeles. I love Hollywood. They are so beautiful. It’s all plastic, but I love plastic. I want to be plastic “
From 1945 to 1949, Andy Warhol studied at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh in the “Painting and Design” section where he discovered advertising.
Passionate and full of ideas, he devoted himself to painting, around 1960, making comics that he abandoned when he discovered he was not the first to use these subjects.
From Andrew Warhola to Andy Warhol
After graduating from Carnegie Institute of Technology in June 1949, he left for New York in the summer and moved with Philip Pearlstein. He then took the name of Andy Warhol.
He received his first commissions as an advertising artist. Since then he worked as an illustrator for many magazines: Glamour, Vogue, Seventeen, The New Yorker, Harper’s Bazaar. He also produced window decorations, record and book covers and advertising campaigns.
“Art is already advertising. The Mona Lisa could have served as a support for a brand of chocolate, Coca-Cola or whatever.”
In 1952 his first solo exhibition entitled “Fifteen Drawings on Texts by Truman Capote” took place at the Hugo Gallery in New York.
Four years later he tried unsuccessfully to join the Tanager Gallery, the first gallery run by an artists’ cooperative. The following year he founded Andy Warhol Enterprises Inc. and publishes “A Gold Book“.
The work that would have made him famous in the world, however, is the realization of serigraphs with consumer objects as the main subject of his paintings.
Through screen printing, which Warhol produced trying not only to make mass production “artistic”, but by popularizing the mass production of art itself, the artist diminished his role in the production of his work and declared that he wanted to be “a machine “, thus triggering a revolution in art. His work quickly became popular and controversial.
He continued his work using, in 1962, photos of the stars of the time. He reproduced these photographs in black and white, colored them and then reproduced them using the screen printing process.
The most famous portraits of him are those of Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and Marlon Brando. He also took a keen interest in the subject of death with his series of accidents and his electric chair.
In 1964, in the first European exhibition held in Paris at the Galerie Ileana Sonnebend, Andy Warhol exhibited the Flowers series.
He received a commission from architect Philip Johnson to produce a mural, called Thirteen Most Wanted Men, which was exhibited at the New York World’s Fair. In November 1964, Warhol’s first solo exhibition in the United States was held at the Leo Castelli Gallery.
Andy Warhol’s first solo Pop Art exhibition was hosted at Eleanor Ward’s Stable Gallery in New York, November 6-24, 1962. The works on display included the Marilyn Diptych, 100 cans of soup, 100 bottles of Coca Cola and 100 dollar bills. In this exhibition, the artist first met John Giorno who would star in Warhol’s first film, Sleep, in 1963.
In 1963, Warhol rented a studio east of 87th Street, where he met his assistant Gerard Malanga and where he began directing his first film.
Later, he went to Los Angeles for his second exhibition at the Ferus Gallery. In November of that year, Warhol found a loft that became his main studio: The Factory was born. Warhol wanted to make a superstar of anyone who set foot in his studio.
The studio became a crossroads for artists and musicians like Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, Truman Capote and Mick Jagger. Other more casual visitors included Salvador Dalí and Allen Ginsberg.
Warhol’s trick to lure strangers into the Factory and decide their new Superstar status was to invite them to screen test his films.
Warhol collaborated in 1965 with Lou Reed’s influential New York rock band, the Velvet Underground. He designed the famous cover of their debut album The Velvet Underground & Nico, which consisted of a yellow plastic banana that could actually be peeled to reveal a pink version underneath. Warhol also designed the cover for the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers album.
The Velvet Underground used the Factory as a rehearsal studio. Walk on the Wild Side, the song by the aforementioned Lou Reed, the most famous of his solo career, was released on his first commercially successful album, Transformer. The lyrics of the song were about the superstars he was with at the Factory.
In addition, Warhol included the Velvet Underground in Exploding Plastic Inevitable (he obviously liked plastic!), A show that combined art, rock, Andy’s films and dancers of all kinds. The images that were staged were quite strong, let’s say almost sadomasochistic!
I shot Andy Warhol
Valerie Solanas, a feminine radical in the 60s, lesbian and very opposed to men, decides to go to New York to beg Warhol to produce his play Up Your Ass. After the meeting, however, with the artist and publisher Maurice Girodias , the woman becomes paranoid, convincing herself that they are both conspiring to steal the idea.
On June 3, 1968 Valerie arrives at the Factory with a gun and shoots Andy Warhol 3 times: 1 of these hits him. Following the wound, Warhol spent two months in the hospital, treating gunshot wounds, which affected the lungs, spleen, esophagus, liver and stomach. This forced him to wear a surgical corset all his life to support the fall of his internal organs.
In 1996 the story of Valerie and the attempted murder were told in a film with the title “I shot Andy Warhol”.
An icon of the New York art scene
In this period and in the following years, Warhol was criticized for simply becoming a “business artist”. In 1979, several unfavorable comments were made to his exhibition of 1970s personality portraits, calling them superficial, easy and commercial, with no depth or indication of the importance of the subject.
This criticism was also echoed in his 1980 exhibition. Ten portraits were on display at the Jewish Museum in New York, called Jewish Geniuses. Warhol, who had no interest in Judaism or in matters of interest to Jews, wrote in his diary: “They will sell.”
In retrospect, however, some critics have come to see Warhol and the superficiality of commercialization as “the brightest mirror of our time”, arguing that “Warhol had mastered something compelling in American culture in the 1970s.”
Warhol was able to re-emerge with positive criticism and financial success in the 1980s, in part thanks to his affiliation and established friendships with a number of prolific young artists who dominated New York’s “bull market.” -Michel Basquiat, Julian Schnabel, David Salle and other so-called neo-expressionists as well as exponents of the European trans-avant-garde, including Francesco Clemente and Enzo Cucchi.
On February 20, 1987, he entered New York Hospital under an assumed name (Bob Robert) to seek treatment for his gallbladder. He died two days later, on February 22, from postoperative complications. On April 1, the memorial mass celebrated in his honor in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York brought together more than 2,000 people.
The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts
After the artist’s death, the Andy Warhol Foundation was created, whose mission is “to promote innovative artistic expression and the creative process”. It mainly focuses on works of a difficult and often experimental nature.
The Warhol Foundation thus makes it possible to support creation and Pop art. He does not hesitate to partially fund the artists he considers within Warhol’s guidelines by assigning them budgets from $ 3,000 to $ 50,000. This sum allows artists to be able to give free rein to their desires, ideas and imagination.
The types of projects supported range from art blogs, newspapers or magazines, obviously including works such as paintings and exhibitions. It also brings together more than 5,900 artists in more than 170 communities around the world.
This foundation has been very active since 1987 and has a website and a Facebook account to be able to follow the latest news: The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts
The legacy of Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol has influenced many other artists who have worked with photos and screen printing, as well as a wide variety of other mediums, both in life and after.
David Bowie: the song Andy Warhol
Take for example David Bowie‘s song “Andy Warhol”, featured on the 1971 Hunky Dory album. Influenced by New York culture and the Velvet Underground as reported in the album case “A little white light returned with many graces” in reference to White Light / White Heat by the New York band.
David Bowie in reference to Andy Warhol says “I don’t think Andy Warhol influenced me as much as you might think. What did I like about him? A couple of his lines. Anything can be reproduced. It was a great idea. Him as a character. instead, it didn’t fit into what I was doing at all. It still comes back to Lou and the Velvet. It was thanks to Velvet that I had a passing interest in Warhol. “
In his autobiography, David Bowie recounts meeting Warhol in New York and says: “It was really impossible (in reference to Warhol). He gave the impression that he was missing a few Fridays. I never could tell if he was a really lucky fag who liked bright colors and had a stroke of luck, or if he followed some philosophy. I never found out. I think it was actually a fifty-fifty. “
Andy Warhol has practiced various forms of art in his life, including film, directing, video production and installations. The merit of him was that of blurring the boundary between popular aesthetics and the fine arts.
Warhol has been the subject of numerous retrospectives, books and documentaries since his death in 1987. He coined the phrase “15 minutes of fame“, which refers to the transient state of stardom. This celebrity is attached to media attention on a topic, which evaporates as attention is drawn to a new topic. Warhol was convinced that in the near future everyone would reach their “15 minutes of fame” and prophesied what happened a few decades after his death with the advent of social media.
However, the 15 minutes did not apply to Andy Warhol himself, because he had this ability to discover the strangeness or fascination of any object, banal or sensational, which has dedicated him to posterity.
To find out more, we leave you with a sentence from our protagonist today:
“If you want to know everything about Andy Warhol, take a look at the surface of my paintings, my films and myself. I’m here. There is nothing behind it “