Andrew Warhola, Jr. (August 6, 1928 – February 22, 1987), 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 member of highly diverse social circles that included Bohemian street people, distinguished intellectuals, 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.' 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 US$100 million for a 1963 canvas titled Eight Elvises. The private transaction was reported in a 2009 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, Vincent van Gogh, Pierre-August Renoir, Gustav Klimt and Willem de Kooning have achieved.
Andy Warhol was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on August 6, 1928. He was the fourth child of Ondrej Varchola (americanized as Andrej Warhola), who died in 1942, and Júlia (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 Rusynemigrants from Mikó (now called Miková), located in today's northeastern Slovakia, part of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. Warhol's father immigrated to the US 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 5Beelen Street and later at 325Dawson 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 in Slovakia; Ján was born in Pittsburgh. Pavol's son, James Warhola, became a successful children's book illustrator.
In third grade, Warhol had chorea, the 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 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.
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 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 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.
He began exhibiting his work during the 1950s. He held exhibitions at the Hugo Gallery, and the Bodley Gallery in New York City and in California his first one-man art-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 products such as Campbell's Soup Cans 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 196during 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.
A pivotal event was the 196exhibit 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 (or of what is art and what is not).
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 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.
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 authored the S.C.U.M. Manifesto, a separatist feminist attack on males. Solanas appears in the 196Warhol 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 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 became much more tightly controlled, and for many the 'Factory 60s' ended. 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.'
Compared to the success and scandal of Warhol's work in the 1960s, the 1970s were 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, 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 '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.
During this time Warhol created the Michael Jackson painting signifying his success attributed to his best-selling album Thriller.
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 New York, 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 New York City at 6:3a.m. 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.
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 also made an appearance. 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.
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 official 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. 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 2November 196Warhol wrote Latow a check for $50 which, according to the 200Warhol 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 – a minimal amount for the artist whose paintings sell for over $million more recently.
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 hand-made 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 race version of the then elite supercar BMW Mfor 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 2minutes 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 1962–6Death and Disaster series. The Death and Disaster paintings included Red Car Crash, Purple Jumping Man, and Orange Disaster.
The unifying element in Warhol's work is his deadpan Keatonesque style – artistically and personally affectless. This was mirrored by Warhol's own demeanor, as he often played 'dumb' to the media, and refused to explain his work. The artist was famous for having said that all you need to know about him and his works is already there, 'Just look at the surface of my paintings and films and me, and there I am. There's nothing behind it.'
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 over 50 large collaborative works done with Jean-Michel Basquiat between 198and 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, 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.
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.million.
Warhol worked across a wide range of media – painting, photography, drawing, and sculpture. In addition, he was a highly prolific filmmaker. Between 196and 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 4minutes. Warhol attended the 196premiere 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 196film 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 200documentary Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis.
Warhol's 196film 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 1mm-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, 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 3minutes of the film's playing-time – was Warhol's last film as director. The film was at the time scandalous for its frank approach to a sexual encounter. For many years Viva refused to allow it to be screened. It was publicly screened in New York in 200for the first time in over thirty 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 '70s, 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.