Andy Warhol and Michelangelo created two of the most important icons of the History of Art
Let’s try something: take two minutes to think about the most representative painting of the Renaissance and take another two to choose an image that resumes the 20th century. I have two images (icons) and probably you have chosen two similar images. For the Renaissance I’ve chosen the Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel with the pact between God and the Humankind… and I think the 20th century was the century of the cinema and Warhol’s image of Marilyn Monroe Diptych is maybe the icon that describes better these times.
Yes, I know the techniques are very different and Warhol didn’t paint a whole building but we might move to those times and we might think about the understanding of a man from the 16th century. Michelangelo’s works were made for a Pope who wanted to show the world his magnificent and then, he entrusted the most impressive painting the Humankind could watch. And that was work for Michelangelo and that’s the Sistine Chapel: a painting monument to declare the magnificent of a man: Julius II, the Pope.
Warhol’s works were very different because, never forget it, Warhol’s times were very different. The Industrial Revolution changed something more than the relationship between the man and the machine. It changed the understanding of the Humankind and this is a great change and now, more than ever, we can feel this change with the arriving of Internet. Now, everything looks to be made in series. Everything: movies, paintings and books. You cannot write a book without the full understanding of the literary world because, if you don’t know it, you won’t be able to sell a book.
In this world everything looks to be created to make money and this is a special and very controversial point too. Yes, Warhol loved the money and it looked that money loved Warhol. He died with a fortune of 250 million of dollars because, in these times, the quality of an art piece looks to be determined by the amount in an auction (I know and I don’t agree but these are the rules of the game, sorry). Is Cezanne better than Velazquez? I don’t know but it looks impossible to bid for Las Meninas in Sotheby’s. But Velazquez was painting for a King and Warhol was painting for the people and this is the most important point in this reflection.
Warhol’s works resume this era because this is an era that wants to change the History rules and pretends to believe in democracy moral structures to create a new relationship between Governments and people. People now is important and cinema is probably the most important entertainment product designed for the people (and of course, everybody loves movies). We have an image of the icon of the 20th century: Marylyn Monroe. 50 pictures that describe the bright career of the start and her falling, 50 pictures that resume the 20th century; 50 pictures to dialogue and criticize; 50 images for the eternity.
I know maybe you don’t agree but let’s take a minute to think about it. Wasn’t Picasso’s travel a travel to iconization? Was not Munch’s Scream a try to catch into a painting the full anguish of these suffering people who were born, who lived to work and who died without sense? Yes, and this was the life of Marilyn Monroe, a woman who lived to bright and who died to feed this legend and this world of plenty colors and fake illusions… and I think the most representative of this dream was Warhol’s work. Fictitious? Of course it is. Wasn’t fictitious the Mannerism? It was also. Mannerism was a chance to change the rules of the game like Pop-art was a chance to change them too.I don’t want to say that Warhol is better than Michelangelo but I would like to point the common arguments that have the two artworks, two artworks that define two centuries and two artworks that will be remembered for ever… or not.
That’s the paradox of time.