Andy Warhol is, without any doubt, one of the most distinguished figures in the History of Art in the 20th century.
“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.”
Accused from the beginning of being to commercial and attacked by having capitulate to consumerism, Andy Warhol is maybe the best artist who understood the new way of life of that society of the 60’s and 70’s, a welfare society that reached a peak in the in the days of the Kennedy presidency. In fact, Warhol will be always proud of having looking for profits and in 1975, when he published “The Philosophy of Andy Warhol”, he will say: “Making money is art, and working is art and good business is the best art.”
Andy Warhol, son of Czech emigrants, had a difficult childhood because he contracted St. Vitus’ dance. Then, he trembled uncontrollably and other boys laughed at him. He studied at the Carnegie Museum of Pittsburg. In 1949, he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design. Soon, he moved to New York and earned a reputation for using the blotted-line technique in numerous commercial advertisements. His most famous ads were for shoes for I. Miller, but he also drew Christmas cards for Tiffany & Company, created book and album covers, and illustrated Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Book of Etiquette. All of them are attractive works full of colors and imperfections, because “imperfection” is another characteristic of Warhol’s works: “When you do something exactly wrong, you always turn up something” he will say years later.
The blotted-line technique requires to tape two pieces of blank paper together and afterwards, to draw in ink on one page. Before the ink dried, you must press the two pieces of paper together. The result was a picture with irregular lines that Warhol painted with watercolor with a fantastic result.
Used to paint everyday objects, he soon identified with the emergent Pop art. His first solo exhibition came in 1962 at the Ferus art Gallery in Los Angeles. He exhibited 32 canvases of Campbell soup, one canvas for each soup and sold all the paintings as a set for a $1000. Few money and too much time employed painting in canvas. Luckily, in July 1962, he discovered the process of silk screening, which allows him to create similar patterns multiple times. Warhol would use this style for the rest of his life.
His next source of inspiration will be Hollywood and his celebrities (portraits of Marilyn Monroe, Elisabeth Taylor, Elvis Presley… Furthermore, he founded his studio, “The Factory” and gathered about him a wide range of artists, writers, musicians, and underground celebrities. He became controversial, and started to make controversial movies: “Sleep”, is a five-and-a-half hour film of a man sleeping. However, all this “Warholian world” finished on July 3, 1968, when the feminist actress Valerie Solanas walked into Warhol’s studio and shot him in the chest. Time after, he will 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.”
In fact, Warhol will do a performance of his life and a main character of his eccentric person. He was able to survive everything.
In 1973, he founded with Gerard Malanga “Interview magazine” and in 1979 with his friend Stuart Pivar “the New York Academy of Art”.
In the 1980’s, Warhol had new good times. He was the star of a new generation of artists: Neo-Expressionists as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Julian Schnabel, David Salle and of the Transavantgarde movement as Francesco Clemente and Enzo Cucchi.
He died in 1987 and was buried in Pittsburgh as a prince: the prince of Pop.
Want more? Visit Andy Warhol’s foundation