Andy Warhol (/’w?:rh?l/; born Andrew Warhola; August 6, 1928 – February 22, 1987) was an American artist who was a leading figure in the visual art movement known as pop art. His works explore the relationship between artistic expression, celebrity culture, and advertisement that flourished by the 1960s. After a successful career as a commercial illustrator, Warhol became a renowned and sometimes controversial artist. The Andy Warhol Museum in his native city, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, holds an extensive permanent collection of art and archives. It is the largest museum in the United States dedicated to a single artist.
Warhol’s art used many types of media, including hand drawing, painting, printmaking, photography, silk screening, sculpture, film, and music. He was also a pioneer in computer-generated art using Amiga computers that were introduced in 1984, two years before his death. He founded Interview magazine and was the author of numerous books, including The Philosophy of Andy Warhol and Popism: The Warhol Sixties. He managed and produced The Velvet Underground, a rock band which had a strong influence on the evolution of punk rock music. He is also notable as a gay man who lived openly as such before the gay liberation movement. His studio, The Factory, was a well known gathering place that brought together distinguished intellectuals, drag queens, playwrights, Bohemian street people, Hollywood celebrities, and wealthy patrons.
Warhol has been the subject of numerous retrospective exhibitions, books, and feature and documentary films. He coined the widely used expression “15 minutes of fame”. Many of his creations are very collectible and highly valuable. The highest price ever paid for a Warhol painting is US$105 million for a 1963 canvas titled “Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster)”. A 2009 article in The Economist described Warhol as the “bellwether of the art market”. Warhol’s works include some of the most expensive paintings ever sold.
Early life and beginnings (1928-49)
Warhol was born on August 6, 1928 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was the fourth child of Ondrej Warhola (Americanized as Andrew Warhola, Sr., 1889-1942) and Julia (née Zavacká, 1892-1972), whose first child was born in their homeland and died before their move to the U.S.
His parents were working-class Lemko emigrants from Mikó (now called Miková), located in today’s northeastern Slovakia, part of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. Warhol’s father immigrated to the United States in 1914, and his mother joined him in 1921, after the death of Warhol’s grandparents. Warhol’s father worked in a coal mine. The family lived at 55 Beelen Street and later at 3252 Dawson Street in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh. The family was Byzantine Catholic and attended St. John Chrysostom Byzantine Catholic Church. Andy Warhol had two older brothers–Pavol (Paul), the oldest, was born before the family emigrated; Ján was born in Pittsburgh. Pavol’s son, James Warhola, became a successful children’s book illustrator.
In third grade, Warhol had Sydenham’s chorea (also known as St. Vitus’ Dance), the nervous system disease that causes involuntary movements of the extremities, which is believed to be a complication of scarlet fever which causes skin pigmentation blotchiness. He became a hypochondriac, developing a fear of hospitals and doctors. Often bedridden as a child, he became an outcast at school and bonded with his mother. At times when he was confined to 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. When Warhol was 13, his father died in an accident.
As a teenager, Warhol graduated from Schenley High School in 1945. After graduating from high school, his intentions were to study art education at the University of Pittsburgh in the hope of becoming an art teacher, but his plans changed and he enrolled in the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, where he studied commercial art. During his time there, Warhol joined the campus Modern Dance Club and Beaux Arts Society. He also served as art director of the student art magazine, Cano, illustrating a cover in 1948 and a full-page interior illustration in 1949. These are believed to be his first two published artworks. Warhol earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in pictorial design in 1949. Later that year, he moved to New York City and began a career in magazine illustration and advertising.
During the 1950s, Warhol 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 at the Bodley Gallery in New York. 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.
Warhol was an early adopter of the silk screen printmaking process as a technique for making paintings. His earliest silkscreening in painting involved hand-drawn images though this soon progressed to the use of photographically derived silkscreening in paintings. Prior to entering the field of fine art, Warhol’s commercial art background also involved innovative techniques for image making that were somewhat related to printmaking techniques. When rendering commercial objects for advertising Warhol devised a technique that resulted in a characteristic image. His imagery used in advertising was often executed by means of applying ink to paper and then blotting the ink while still wet. This was akin to a printmaking process on the most rudimentary scale.
Warhol’s work both as a commercial artist and later a fine artist displays a casual approach to image making, in which chance plays a role and mistakes and unintentional marks are tolerated. The resulting imagery in both Warhol’s commercial art and later in his fine art endeavors is often replete with imperfection–smudges and smears can often be found. In his book POPism Warhol writes, “When you do something exactly wrong, you always turn up something.”
He began exhibiting his work during the 1950s. He held exhibitions at the Hugo Gallery and the Bodley Gallery in New York City; in California, his first West Coast gallery exhibition was on July 9, 1962, in the Ferus Gallery of Los Angeles. The exhibition marked his West Coast debut of pop art. Andy Warhol’s first New York solo pop art exhibition was hosted at Eleanor Ward’s Stable Gallery November 6-24, 1962. The exhibit included the works Marilyn Diptych, 100 Soup Cans, 100 Coke Bottles, and 100 Dollar Bills. At the Stable Gallery exhibit, the artist met for the first time poet John Giorno who would star in Warhol’s first film, Sleep, in 1963.
It was during the 1960s that Warhol began to make paintings of iconic American objects such as dollar bills, mushroom clouds, electric chairs, Campbell’s Soup Cans, Coca-Cola bottles, celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Marlon Brando, Troy Donahue, Muhammad Ali, and Elizabeth Taylor, as well as newspaper headlines or photographs of police dogs attacking civil rights protesters. During these years, he founded his studio, “The Factory” and gathered about him a wide range of artists, writers, musicians, and underground celebrities. His work became popular and controversial. Warhol had this to say about Coca-Cola:
What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coca-Cola, Liz Taylor drinks Coca-Cola, and just think, you can drink Coca-Cola, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.
New York City’s Museum of Modern Art hosted a Symposium on pop art in December 1962 during which artists such as 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 increasingly 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.–was created by six prominent pop artists of the time, among them 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 art is.
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; this was particularly true in the 1960s. One of the most important collaborators during this period was Gerard Malanga. Malanga assisted the artist with the production of 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 the 1960s, Warhol also groomed a retinue of bohemian and counterculture eccentrics upon whom he bestowed the designation “Superstars”, including Nico, Joe Dallesandro, Edie Sedgwick, Viva, Ultra Violet, Holly Woodlawn, Jackie Curtis, and Candy Darling. 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, such as writer John Giorno and 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 time. Less well known was his support and collaboration with several teen-agers during this era, who would achieve prominence later in life including writer David Dalton, photographer Stephen Shore and artist Bibbe Hansen (mother of pop musician Beck).
Attempted murder (1968)
On June 3, 1968, radical feminist writer Valerie Solanas shot Warhol and Mario Amaya, art critic and curator, at Warhol’s studio. Before the shooting, Solanas had been a marginal figure in the Factory scene. She authored in 1967 the S.C.U.M. Manifesto, a separatist feminist tract that advocated the elimination of men; and appeared 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 had apparently been misplaced.
Amaya received only minor injuries and was released from the hospital later the same day. Warhol was seriously wounded by the attack and barely survived: surgeons opened his chest and massaged his heart to help stimulate its movement again. He suffered physical effects for the rest of his life, including being required to wear a surgical corset. 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 Warhol “had too much control over my life.” She was eventually sentenced to three years under the control of the Department of Corrections. After the shooting, the Factory scene heavily increased security, and for many the “Factory 60s” ended.
Warhol had this to say about the attack: “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. People sometimes say that the way things happen in movies is unreal, but actually it’s the way things happen in life that’s unreal. The movies make emotions look so strong and real, whereas when things really do happen to you, it’s like watching television–you don’t feel anything. Right when I was being shot and ever since, I knew that I was watching television. The channels switch, but it’s all television.”
Compared to the success and scandal of Warhol’s work in the 1960s, the 1970s were a much quieter decade, as he became more entrepreneurial. According to Bob Colacello, Warhol devoted much of his time to rounding up new, rich patrons for portrait commissions–including Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, his wife Empress Farah Pahlavi, his sister Princess Ashraf Pahlavi, Mick Jagger, Liza Minnelli, John Lennon, Diana Ross, and Brigitte Bardot. Warhol’s famous portrait of Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong was created in 1973. He also founded, with Gerard Malanga, Interview magazine, and published The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (1975). An idea expressed in the book: “Making money is art, and working is art and good business is the best art.”
Warhol used to socialize at various nightspots in New York City, including Max’s Kansas City; and, later in the 1970s, 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.”
With his longtime friend Stuart Pivar, Warhol founded the New York Academy of Art in 1979.
Warhol had a re-emergence of critical and financial success in the 1980s, partially due to his affiliation and friendships with a number of prolific younger artists, who were dominating the “bull market” of 1980s New York art: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Julian Schnabel, David Salle and other so-called Neo-Expressionists, as well as members of the Transavantgarde movement in Europe, including Francesco Clemente and Enzo Cucchi.
By this period, Warhol was being criticized for becoming merely a “business artist”. In 1979, reviewers disliked 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. They also criticized his 1980 exhibit of 10 portraits at the Jewish Museum in Manhattan, entitled Jewish Geniuses, which Warhol–who was uninterested in Judaism and 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.”
Warhol died in Manhattan, at 6:32 am, on February 22, 1987. According to news reports, he had been making good recovery from a routine gallbladder surgery at New York Hospital before dying in his sleep from a sudden post-operative cardiac arrhythmia. Prior to his diagnosis and operation, Warhol delayed having his recurring gallbladder problems checked, as he was afraid to enter hospitals and see doctors. His family sued the hospital for inadequate care, saying that the arrhythmia was caused by improper care and water intoxication. The malpractice case was quickly settled out of court; Warhol’s family received an undisclosed sum of money.
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 was dressed in a black cashmere suit, a paisley tie, a platinum wig, and sunglasses. He was posed 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 and John Richardson were speakers. 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. A memorial service was held in Manhattan for Warhol on April 1, 1987, at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York.
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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.
In 1987, in accordance with Warhol’s will, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts began. The foundation serves as the estate of Andy Warhol, but 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 its 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 released its 20th Anniversary Annual Report as a three-volume set in 2007: 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.
By the beginning of the 1960s, Warhol had become a very successful commercial illustrator. His detailed and elegant drawings for I. Miller shoes were particularly popular. They consisted mainly of “blotted ink” drawings (or monoprints), a technique which he applied in much of his early art. Although many artists of this period worked in commercial art, most did so discreetly. Warhol was so successful, however, that his profile as an illustrator seemed to undermine his efforts to be taken seriously as an artist.
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. Marilyn Monroe was a pop art painting that Warhol had done and it was very popular. Those drips emulated the style of successful abstract expressionists (such as Willem de Kooning). Warhol’s first pop art paintings were displayed in April 1961, serving as the backdrop for New York Department Store Bronwit Teller’s window display. This was the same stage his Pop Art contemporaries Jasper Johns, James Rosenquist and Robert Rauschenberg had also once graced. 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. It was the gallerist Muriel Latow who came up with the ideas for both the soup cans and Warhol’s dollar paintings. On November 23, 1961 Warhol wrote Latow a check for $50 which, according to the 2009 Warhol biography, Pop, The Genius of Warhol, was payment for coming up with the idea of the soup cans as subject matter. For his first major exhibition Warhol 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.
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 handmade from the artistic process. Warhol frequently used silk-screening; his later drawings were traced from slide projections. 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.
In 1979, Warhol was commissioned by BMW to paint a Group 4 race version of the then elite supercar BMW M1 for the fourth installment in the BMW Art Car Project. Unlike the three artists before him, Warhol declined the use of a small scale practice model, instead opting to immediately paint directly onto the full scale automobile. It was indicated that Warhol spent only a total of 23 minutes to paint the entire car. 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 included Red Car Crash, Purple Jumping Man, and Orange Disaster. One of these paintings, the diptych “Silver Car Crash”, became the highest priced work of his when it sold at Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Auction on Wednesday, November 13, 2013, for $105.4 million.
Some of Warhol’s work, as well as his own personality, has been described as being Keatonesque. Warhol has been described as playing dumb to the media. He sometimes refused to explain his work. He has suggested that all one needs to know about his work is “already there ‘on the surface.'”
His 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”:
Victor … was Andy’s ghost pisser on the Oxidations. He would come to the Factory to urinate on canvases that had already been primed with copper-based paint by Andy or Ronnie Cutrone, a second ghost pisser much appreciated by Andy, who said that the vitamin B that Ronnie took made a prettier color when the acid in the urine turned the copper green. Did Andy ever use his own urine? My diary shows that when he first began the series, in December 1977, he did, and there were many others: boys who’d come to lunch and drink too much wine, and find it funny or even flattering to be asked to help Andy ‘paint’. Andy always had a little extra bounce in his walk as he led them to his studio.
Warhol’s first portrait of Basquiat (1982) is a black photosilkscreen over an oxidized copper “piss painting”.
After many years of silkscreen, oxidation, photography, etc., Warhol returned to painting with a brush in hand in a series of more than 50 large collaborative works done with Jean-Michel Basquiat between 1984 and 1986. Despite negative criticism when these were first shown, Warhol called some of them “masterpieces,” and they were influential for his later work.
The influence of the large collaborations with Basquiat can be seen in Warhol’s “The Last Supper” cycle, his last and possibly his largest series. Andy Warhol was commissioned in 1984 by the gallerist Alexander Iolas to produce work based on Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” for an exhibition at the old refectory of the Palazzo delle Stelline in Milan, opposite from the Santa Maria delle Grazie where Leonardo da Vinci’s mural can be seen. Warhol exceeded the demands of the commission and produced nearly 100 variations on the theme, mostly silkscreens and paintings, and among them a collaborative sculpture with Basquiat, the “Ten Punching Bags (Last Supper)”. The Milan exhibition that opened in January 1987 with a set of 22 silk-screens, was the last exhibition for both the artist and the gallerist. The series of The Last Supper was seen by some as “arguably his greatest,” but by others as “wishy-washy, religiose” and “spiritless.” It is also the largest series of religious-themed works by any U.S. artist.
Warhol’s ability to find the uncanny, silly, or seductive in any given object, whether said object is mundane or sensational, influenced many artists working through photo and media outlets, among a vast number of other mediums. Artist Maurizio Cattelan describes that it is difficult to separate daily encounters from the art of Andy Warhol: “That’s probably the greatest thing about Warhol: the way he penetrated and summarized our world, to the point that distinguishing between him and our everyday life is basically impossible, and in any case useless.” Warhol was an inspiration towards Cattelan’s magazine and photography compilations, such as Permanent Food, Charley, and Toilet Paper.
At the time of his death, Warhol was working on Cars, a series of paintings for Mercedes-Benz.
A self-portrait by Andy Warhol (1963-64), which sold in New York at the May Post-War and Contemporary evening sale in Christie’s, fetched $38.4 million.
On May 9, 2012, his classic painting “Double Elvis (Ferus Type)” sold at auction at Sotheby’s in New York for US$33 million. With commission, the sale price totaled US$37,042,500, short of the $50 million that Sotheby’s had predicted the painting might bring. The piece (silkscreen ink and spray paint on canvas) shows Elvis Presley in a gunslinger pose. It was first exhibited in 1963 at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles. Warhol made 22 versions of the “Double Elvis,” nine of which are held in museums.
In November 2013, his “Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster)” diptych sold at Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Auction for $105.4 million, a new record for the famed pop artist (pre-auction estimates at $80 million). Created in 1963, this work has only been seen in public once in the past 26 years. In November 2014, “Triple Elvis” sold for $81.9m (£51.9m) at auction in New York.
Warhol worked across a wide range of media–painting, photography, drawing, and sculpture. In addition, he was a highly prolific filmmaker. Between 1963 and 1968, he made more than 60 films, plus some 500 short black-and-white “screen test” portraits of Factory visitors. One of his most famous films, Sleep, monitors poet John Giorno sleeping for six hours. The 35-minute film Blow Job is one continuous shot of the face of DeVeren Bookwalter supposedly receiving oral sex from filmmaker Willard Maas, although the camera never tilts down to see this. Another, Empire (1964), consists of eight hours of footage of the Empire State Building in New York City at dusk. The film Eat consists of a man eating a mushroom for 45 minutes. Warhol attended the 1962 premiere of the static composition by LaMonte Young called Trio for Strings and subsequently created his famous series of static films including Kiss, Eat, and Sleep (for which Young initially was commissioned to provide music). Uwe Husslein cites filmmaker Jonas Mekas, who accompanied Warhol to the Trio premiere, and who claims Warhol’s static films were directly inspired by the performance.
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 Chelsea Girls (1966). 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.
Other important films include Bike Boy, My Hustler, The Nude Restaurant, 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. 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, a seminal film in the Golden Age of Porn, was at the time scandalous for its frank approach to a sexual encounter. Blue Movie was publicly screened in New York City in 2005 for the first time in more that 30 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–more of a Morrissey star than a true Warhol superstar.
In the early 1970s, most of the films directed by Warhol were pulled out of circulation by Warhol and the people around him who ran his business. After Warhol’s death, the films were slowly restored by the Whitney Museum and are occasionally projected at museums and film festivals. Few of the Warhol-directed films are available on video or DVD.
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Factory in New York
- Factory: 1342 Lexington Avenue (the first Factory)
- The Factory: 231 East 47th Street, 1963-67 (the building no longer exists)
- Factory: 33 Union Square, 1967-73 (Decker Building)
- Factory: 860 Broadway (near 33 Union Square), 1973-84 (the building has now been completely remodeled and was for a time (2000-2001) the headquarters of the dot-com consultancy Scient)
- Factory: 22 East 33rd Street, 1984-87 (the building no longer exists)
- Home: 1342 Lexington Avenue
- Home: 57 East 66th Street (Warhol’s last home)
- Last personal studio: 158 Madison Avenue
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 & 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. In 1989, after Warhol’s death, Reed and John Cale re-united for the first time since 1972 to write, perform, record and release the concept album Songs for Drella, a tribute to Warhol.
Warhol designed many album covers for various artists starting with the photographic cover of John Wallowitch’s debut album, This Is John Wallowitch!!! (1964). He designed the cover art for The Rolling Stones’ albums Sticky Fingers (1971) and Love You Live (1977), and the John Cale albums The Academy in Peril (1972) and Honi Soit in 1981. One of Warhol’s last works was a portrait of Aretha Franklin for the cover of her 1986 gold album Aretha, which was done in the style of the Reigning Queens series he had completed the year before.
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, and this version was released on the VU album in 1985. Bowie would later play Warhol in the 1996 movie, Basquiat. Bowie recalled how meeting Warhol in real life helped him in the role, and recounted his early meetings with him:
I met him a couple of times, but we seldom shared more than platitudes. The first time we saw each other an awkward silence fell till he remarked my bright yellow shoes and started talking enthusiastically. He wanted to be very superficial. And seemingly emotionless, indifferent, just like a dead fish. Lou Reed described him most profoundly when he once told me they should bring a doll of Andy on the market: a doll that you wind up and doesn’t do anything. But I managed to observe him well, and that was a helping hand for the film [Basquiat]. … We borrowed his clothes from the museum in Pittsburgh, and they were intact, unwashed. Even the pockets weren’t emptied: they contained pancake, white, deadly pale fond de teint which Andy always smeared on his face, a check torn in pieces, someone’s address, lots of homeopathic pills and a wig. Andy always wore those silver wigs, but he never admitted it were wigs. One of his hairdressers has told me lately that he had his wigs regularly cut, like it were real hair. When the wig was trimmed, he put on another next month as if his hair had grown.
Books and print
Beginning in the early 1950s, Warhol produced several unbound portfolios of his work.
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 No. 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 by Doyle New York.
Other self-published books by Warhol include:
- A Gold Book
- Wild Raspberries
- Holy Cats
Warhol’s book A La Recherche du Shoe Perdu (1955) marked his “transition from commercial to gallery artist”. (The title is a play on words by Warhol on the title of French author Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu.)
After gaining fame, Warhol “wrote” several books that were commercially published:
- a, A Novel (1968, ISBN 0-8021-3553-6) is a literal transcription–containing spelling errors and phonetically written background noise and mumbling–of audio recordings of Ondine and several of Andy Warhol’s friends hanging out at the Factory, talking, going out.
- The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B & Back Again) (1975, ISBN 0-15-671720-4)–according to Pat Hackett’s introduction to The Andy Warhol Diaries, Pat Hackett did the transcriptions and text for the book based on daily phone conversations, sometimes (when Warhol was traveling) using audio cassettes that Andy Warhol gave her. Said cassettes contained conversations with Brigid Berlin (also known as Brigid Polk) and former Interview magazine editor Bob Colacello.
- Popism: The Warhol Sixties (1980, ISBN 0-15-672960-1), authored by Warhol and Pat Hackett, is a retrospective view of the 1960s and the role of pop art.
- The Andy Warhol Diaries (1989, ISBN 0-446-39138-7), edited by Pat Hackett, is a diary dictated by Warhol to Hackett in daily phone conversations. Warhol started the diary to keep track of his expenses after being audited, although it soon evolved to include his personal and cultural observations.
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.
Although Andy Warhol is most known for his paintings and films, he authored works in many different media.
- Drawing: Warhol started his career as a commercial illustrator, producing drawings in “blotted-ink” style for advertisements and magazine articles. Best known of these early works are his drawings of shoes. Some of his personal drawings were self-published in small booklets, such as Yum, Yum, Yum (about food), Ho, Ho, Ho (about Christmas) and (of course) Shoes, Shoes, Shoes. His most artistically acclaimed book of drawings is probably A Gold Book, compiled of sensitive drawings of young men. A Gold Book is so named because of the gold leaf that decorates its pages. In April 2012 a sketch of 1930s singer Rudy Vallee claimed to have been drawn by Andy Warhol was found at a Las Vegas garage sale. The image was said to have been drawn when Andy was nine or 10. Various authorities have challenged the image’s authenticity.
- Sculpture: Warhol’s most famous sculpture is probably his Brillo Boxes, silkscreened ink on wood replicas of the large, branded cardboard boxes used to hold 24 packages of Brillo soap pads. The original Brillo design was by commercial artist James Harvey. Warhol’s sculpture was part of a series of “grocery carton” works that also included Heinz ketchup and Campbell’s tomato juice cases. Other famous works include the Silver Clouds–helium filled, silver mylar, pillow-shaped balloons. A Silver Cloud was included in the traveling exhibition Air Art (1968-1969) curated by Willoughby Sharp. Clouds was also adapted by Warhol for avant-garde choreographer Merce Cunningham’s dance piece RainForest (1968).
- Audio: At one point Warhol carried a portable recorder with him wherever he went, taping everything everybody said and did. He referred to this device as his “wife”. Some of these tapes were the basis for his literary work. Another audio-work of Warhol’s was his “Invisible Sculpture”, a presentation in which burglar alarms would go off when entering the room. Warhol’s cooperation with the musicians of The Velvet Underground was driven by an expressed desire to become a music producer.
- Time Capsules: In 1973, Warhol began saving ephemera from his daily life–correspondence, newspapers, souvenirs, childhood objects, even used plane tickets and food–which was sealed in plain cardboard boxes dubbed Time Capsules. By the time of his death, the collection grew to include 600, individually dated “capsules”. The boxes are now housed at the Andy Warhol Museum.
- Television: Andy Warhol dreamed of a television special about a favorite subject of his – Nothing – that he would call The Nothing Special. Later in his career he did create two cable television shows, Andy Warhol’s TV in 1982 and Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes (based on his famous “fifteen minutes of fame” quotation) for MTV in 1986. Besides his own shows he regularly made guest appearances on other programs, including The Love Boat wherein a Midwestern wife (Marion Ross) fears Andy Warhol will reveal to her husband (Tom Bosley, who starred alongside Ross in sitcom Happy Days) her secret past as a Warhol superstar named Marina del Rey. Warhol also produced a TV commercial for Schrafft’s Restaurants in New York City, for an ice cream dessert appropriately titled the “Underground Sundae”.
- Fashion: Warhol is quoted for having said: “I’d rather buy a dress and put it up on the wall, than put a painting, wouldn’t you?” One of his most well-known Superstars, Edie Sedgwick, aspired to be a fashion designer, and his good friend Halston was a famous one. Warhol’s work in fashion includes silkscreened dresses, a short sub-career as a catwalk-model and books on fashion as well as paintings with fashion (shoes) as a subject. Warhol himself has been described as a modern dandy, whose authority “rested more on presence than on words”.
- Performance Art: Warhol and his friends staged theatrical multimedia happenings at parties and public venues, combining music, film, slide projections and even Gerard Malanga in an S&M outfit cracking a whip. The Exploding Plastic Inevitable in 1966 was the culmination of this area of his work.
- Theater: Andy Warhol’s Pork opened on May 5, 1971, at LaMama theater in New York for a two-week run and was brought to the Roundhouse in London for a longer run in August 1971. Pork was based on tape-recorded conversations between Brigid Berlin and Andy during which Brigid would play for Andy tapes she had made of phone conversations between herself and her mother, socialite Honey Berlin. The play featured Jayne County as “Vulva” and Cherry Vanilla as “Amanda Pork”. In 1974, Andy Warhol also produced the stage musical Man on the Moon, which was written by John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas.
- Photography: To produce his silkscreens, Warhol made photographs or had them made by his friends and assistants. These pictures were mostly taken with a specific model of Polaroid camera that Polaroid kept in production especially for Warhol. This photographic approach to painting and his snapshot method of taking pictures has had a great effect on artistic photography. Warhol was an accomplished photographer, and took an enormous amount of photographs of Factory visitors, friends.
- Computer: Warhol used Amiga computers to generate digital art, including You Are the One, which he helped design and build with Amiga, Inc. He also displayed the difference between slow fill and fast fill on live TV with Debbie Harry as a model. (video)
Producer and product
Warhol had assistance in producing his paintings. This is also true of his film-making and commercial enterprises.
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.
Warhol was gay. Interviewed in 1980, he indicated that he was still a virgin–biographer Bob Colacello who was present at the interview felt it was probably true and that what little sex he had was probably “a mixture of voyeurism and masturbation–to use his [Andy’s] word abstract“. Warhol’s assertion of virginity would seem to be contradicted by his hospital treatment in 1960 for condylomata, a sexually transmitted disease. It has also been contradicted by his lovers, including Warhol muse BillyBoy who has said they had sex to orgasm: “When he wasn’t being Andy Warhol and when you were just alone with him he was an incredibly generous and very kind person. What seduced me was the Andy Warhol who I saw alone. In fact when I was with him in public he kind of got on my nerves….I’d say: ‘You’re just obnoxious, I can’t bear you.” Asked if Warhol was only a voyeur, Billy Name also denied it, saying: “He was the essence of sexuality. It permeated everything. Andy exuded it, along with his great artistic creativity….It brought a joy to the whole art world in New York.” “But his personality was so vulnerable that it became a defense to put up the blank front.” Warhol’s lovers included John Giorno, Billy Name, Charles Lisanby, Jon Gould. His boyfriend of 12 years was Jed Johnson, whom he met in 1968, and who later achieved fame as an interior designer.
The fact that Warhol’s homosexuality influenced his work and shaped his relationship to the art world is a major subject of scholarship on the artist and is an issue that Warhol himself addressed in interviews, in conversation with his contemporaries, and in his publications (e.g., Popism: The Warhol 1960s). 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 such as Blow Job, My Hustler and Lonesome Cowboys) draw from gay underground culture and/or openly explore the complexity of sexuality and desire. As has been addressed by a range of scholars, many of his films premiered in gay porn theaters.
The first works that Warhol submitted to a fine art gallery, homoerotic drawings of male nudes, 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.
Warhol was a practicing Ruthenian Catholic. He regularly volunteered at homeless shelters in New York City, particularly during the busier times of the year, and described himself as a religious person. Many of Warhol’s later works depicted religious subjects, including two series, Details of Renaissance Paintings (1984) and The Last Supper (1986). In addition, a body of religious-themed works was found posthumously in his estate.
During his life, Warhol regularly attended Mass, and the priest at Warhol’s church, Saint Vincent Ferrer, said that the artist went there almost daily, although he was not observed taking Communion or going to Confession and sat or knelt in the pews at the back. The priest thought he was afraid of being recognized; Warhol said he was self-conscious about being seen in a Roman Rite church crossing himself “in the Orthodox way” (right to left instead of the reverse).
His art is noticeably influenced by the eastern Christian 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 was an avid collector. His friends referred to his numerous collections, which filled not only his four-story townhouse, but also a nearby storage unit, as “Andy’s Stuff.” The true extent of his collections was not discovered until after his death, when the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh took in 641 boxes of his “Stuff.”
Warhol’s collections included airplane menus, unpaid invoices, pizza dough, pornographic pulp novels, newspapers, stamps, supermarket flyers, and cookie jars, among other eccentricities. It also included significant works of art, such as George Bellows’s Miss Bentham. One of his main collections was his wigs. Warhol owned more than 40 and felt very protective of his hairpieces, which were sewn by a New York wig-maker from hair imported from Italy. In 1985 a girl snatched Warhol’s wig off his head. It was later discovered in Warhol’s diary entry for that day that he wrote: “I don’t know what held me back from pushing her over the balcony.”
Another item found in Warhol’s boxes at the museum in Pittsburgh was a mummified human foot from Ancient Egypt. The curator of anthropology at Carnegie Museum of Natural History felt that Warhol most likely found it at a flea market.
Warhol appeared as himself in the film Cocaine Cowboys (1979).
After his death, Warhol was portrayed by Crispin Glover in Oliver Stone’s film The Doors (1991), by David Bowie in Julian Schnabel’s film Basquiat (1996), and by Jared Harris in Mary Harron’s film I Shot Andy Warhol (1996).
Warhol appears as a character in Michael Daugherty’s opera Jackie O (1997). Actor Mark Bringleson makes a brief cameo as Warhol in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997).
Many films by avant-garde cineast Jonas Mekas have caught the moments of Warhol’s life. Sean Gregory Sullivan depicted Warhol in the film 54 (1998). Guy Pearce portrayed Warhol in the film, Factory Girl (2007), about Edie Sedgwick’s life. Actor Greg Travis portrays Warhol in a brief scene from the film Watchmen (2009).
In the movie, Highway to Hell, a group of Andy Warhols are part of the Good Intentions Paving Company where good-intentioned souls are ground into pavement..
In the film Men in Black 3 (2012) Andy Warhol turns out to really be undercover MIB Agent W (played by Bill Hader). Warhol is throwing a party at The Factory in 1969, where he is looked up by MIB Agents K and J (J from the future). Agent W is desperate to end his undercover job (“I’m so out of ideas I’m painting soup cans and bananas, for Christ sakes!” and “You gotta fake my death, okay? I can’t listen to sitar music anymore.”)
Andy Warhol (portrayed by Tom Meeten) is one of main characters of the 2012 British television show Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy. The character is portrayed as having robot-like mannerisms.
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.
In the soon to be released 2016 feature, The Billionaire Boys Club, Cary Elwes portrays Warhol in a film based on the true story about Ron Levin (portrayed by Kevin Spacey) a friend of Warhol’s who was murdered in 1986.
© Image credit
- The documentary, Absolut Warhola (2001) was produced by Polish director Stanislaw Mucha, featuring Warhol’s parents’ family and hometown in Slovakia.
- Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film (2006) is a reverential, four-hour movie by Ric Burns that won a Peabody Award in 2006.
- Andy Warhol: Double Denied (2006) is a 52-minute movie by Ian Yentob about the difficulties authenticating Warhol’s work.
- Andy Warhol’s People Factory (2008), a three-part television documentary directed by Catherine Shorr, features interviews with several of Warhol’s associates.
- Warhol Grave Site – Earthcam live streaming webcam
- Andy Warhol, (1928-1987) – The Carpathian Connection
- Warhol Foundation in New York City
- Andy Warhol Collection in Pittsburgh
- Time Capsules: the Andy Warhol Collection
- Documentation of recent exhibitions of work by Andy Warhol
- The work of Andy Warhol spoken about by David Cronenberg on UbuWeb
- “Andy Warhol”. New York: Museum of Modern Art. 2007. Archived from the original on January 22, 2009. Retrieved January 23, 2009.
- Warholstars: Andy Warhol Films, Art and Superstars
- Art Directors Club biography, portrait and images of work
- Berens, Stephen. “Responses to Warhol Retrospective at MOCA”. X-TRA (Los Angeles: Project X Foundation for Art and Criticism) 5 (1; Fall 2002). Retrieved January 23, 2009.
- The Andy Warhol Museum of Modern Art–city of origin
- Andy Warhol at the Internet Movie Database
- Warhol & The Computer
- Warhol in Paris–slideshow by The First Post
- Andy Warhol makes a digital painting of Debbie Harry at the Commodore Amiga product launch press conference in 1985
- Andy Warhol: A Documentary film by Ric Burns for PBS
- Andy Warhol
- Designer Peter Jensen takes you on a tour of the early drawings of Andy Warhol. Video by Louisiana Channel, Denmark, 2013.
- Andy Warhol in the National Gallery of Australia’s Kenneth Tyler Collection
- Andy Warhol: Film, Video and TV. Fundació Antoni Tàpies