Andrew Warhola (August 6, 1928 – February 22, 1987), more commonly known as Andy Warhol, was an American painter, printmaker, and filmmaker who was a leading figure in the visual art movement known as pop art. After a successful career as a commercial illustrator, Warhol became famous worldwide for his work as a painter, avant-garde filmmaker, record producer, author, and public figure known for his membership in wildly diverse social circles that included bohemian street people, distinguished intellectuals, Hollywood celebrities and wealthy aristocrats.
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." In his hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, The Andy Warhol Museum exists in memory of his life and artwork.
The highest price ever paid for a Warhol painting is $100 million for a 1963 canvas titled Eight Elvises. The private transaction was reported in an article in The Economist, which described Warhol as the "bellwether of the art market." $100 million is a benchmark price that only Jackson Pollock, Pablo Picasso, Gustav Klimt and Willem De Kooning have achieved.
Andy Warhol was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was the fourth child of Ondrej Warhola and Ulja, whose first child was born in their homeland and died before their migration to the U.S. His parents were working-class immigrants from Mikova, in northeastern Slovakia, then under the rule of Austro-Hungarian Empire. Warhol's father immigrated to the US in 1914, and his mother joined him in 1921, after the death of Andy 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, Jan and Pavol, who were born in today's Slovakia. Pavol's son, James Warhola, became a successful children's book illustrator.
In third grade, Warhol had chorea, a nervous system disease that causes involuntary movements of the extremities, which is believed to be a complication of scarlet fever and causes skin pigmentation blotchiness. He became a hypochondriac, developing a fear of hospitals and doctors. Often bed-ridden as a child, he became an outcast among his school-mates and bonded strongly with his mother. When in 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.
Warhol showed early artistic talent and studied commercial art at the School of Fine Arts at Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (now Carnegie Mellon University). In 1949, he moved to New York City and began a successful career in magazine illustration and advertising. During the 1950s, he 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 in New York at the Bodley Gallery. 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.
Campbell's Soup I (1968)1960s
His first one-man art-gallery exhibition as a fine artist was on July 9, 1962, in the Ferus Gallery of Los Angeles. The exhibition marked the West Coast debut of pop art. Andy Warhol's first New York solo Pop exhibit 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 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 products such as Campbell's Soup Cans from the Campbell Soup Company and Coca-Cola bottles, as well as paintings of celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Troy Donahue, Muhammad Ali and Elizabeth Taylor. He founded "The Factory", his studio during these years, and gathered around himself a wide range of artists, writers, musicians, and underground celebrities. He began producing prints using the silkscreen method. His work became popular and controversial.
Among the imagery tackled by Warhol were dollar bills, celebrities and brand name products. He also used as imagery for his paintings newspaper headlines or photographs of mushroom clouds, electric chairs, and police dogs attacking civil rights protesters. Warhol also used Coca Cola bottles as subject matter for paintings. He 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's Museum of Modern Art hosted a Symposium on pop art in December 1962 during which artists like 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 more and more 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.
Campbell's Tomato Juice Box (1964)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. were created by six prominent pop artists of the time including 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 (or of what is art and what is not).
Andy Warhol and fellow pop artist Billy Apple show their "products" during the 1964 show The American Supermarket.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; in the 1960s, however, this was particularly true. One of the most important collaborators during this period was Gerard Malanga. Malanga assisted the artist with producing 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 60s, Warhol also groomed a retinue of bohemian eccentrics upon whom he bestowed the designation "Superstars", including Edie Sedgwick, Viva, Ultra Violet, 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 period.
On June 3, 1968, Valerie Solanas shot Warhol and art critic and curator Mario Amaya at Warhol's studio.
Before the shooting, Solanas had been a marginal figure in the Factory scene. She founded a "group" called S.C.U.M. (Society for Cutting Up Men) and authored the S.C.U.M. Manifesto, a separatist feminist attack on patriarchy. Over the years, Solanas' manifesto has found a following. Solanas appears 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, apparently, had been misplaced.
Amaya received only minor injuries and was released from the hospital later the same day. Warhol however, 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. 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 "He had too much control over my life," following which she was eventually sentenced to three years under the control of the department of corrections. After the shooting, the Factory scene became much more tightly controlled, and for many this event brought the "Factory 60s" to an end. The shooting was mostly overshadowed in the media due to the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy two days later.
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."
Andy Warhol and Jimmy Carter in 1977Compared to the success and scandal of Warhol's work in the 1960s, the 1970s proved a much quieter decade, as Warhol 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, Brigitte Bardot, and Michael Jackson 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, Serendipity 3 and, later in the '70s, 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."
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 '80s 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 unfavorable reviews met 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. This criticism was echoed for his 1980 exhibit of ten portraits at the Jewish Museum in New York, entitled Jewish Geniuses, which Warhol, who exhibited no interest in Judaism or matters of interest to 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."
Many people think of Warhol as "asexual" and merely a "voyeur"; however, it is now well established that he was homosexual (see biographers such as Victor Bockris, Bob Colacello, and art historian Richard Meyer). The question of how Warhol's sexuality 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 Sixties).
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 like Blow Job, My Hustler, and Lonesome Cowboys) draw from gay underground culture and/or openly explore the complexity of sexuality and desire. Many of his films premiered in gay porn theaters. That said, some stories about Warhol's development as an artist revolved around the obstacle his sexuality initially presented as he tried to launch his career.
The first works that he submitted to a gallery in the pursuit of a career as an artist were homoerotic drawings of male nudes. They 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.