Andy Warhol : born Andrew Warhola;
August 6, 1928 – February 22, 1987)
was an American artist, director and producer 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 advertising that flourished by the 1960s,
and span a variety of media, including painting, silkscreening, photography, film, and sculpture.
Some of his best known works include the silkscreen paintings Campbell's Soup Cans (1962) and Marilyn Diptych (1962), the experimental film Chelsea Girls (1966), and the multimedia events known as the Exploding Plastic Inevitable (1966–67).
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Warhol initially pursued a successful career as a commercial illustrator. After exhibiting his work in several galleries in the late 1950s, he began to receive recognition as an influential and controversial artist. His New York studio, The Factory, became a well-known gathering place that brought together distinguished intellectuals, drag queens, playwrights, Bohemian street people, Hollywood celebrities, and wealthy patrons. He promoted a collection of personalities known as Warhol superstars, and is credited with coining the widely used expression "15 minutes of fame." In the late 1960s, he managed and produced the experimental rock band The Velvet Underground and founded Interview magazine. He authored numerous books, including The Philosophy of Andy Warhol and Popism: The Warhol Sixties. He is also notable as a gay man who lived openly as such before the gay liberation movement. After a gallbladder surgery in 1987, Warhol died in February of that year at the age of 58.
Warhol has been the subject of numerous retrospective exhibitions, books, and feature and documentary films. The Andy Warhol Museum in his native city of Pittsburgh, which holds an extensive permanent collection of art and archives, is the largest museum in the United States dedicated to a single artist. 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); his works include some of the most expensive paintings ever sold.
A 2009 article in The Economist described Warhol as the "bellwether of the art market".
By the beginning of the 1960s, 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.
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. A 1964 Large Campbell’s Soup Can was sold in a 2007 Sotheby's auction to a South American collector for £5.1 million ($7.4 million).
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. It was reported at the time that, unlike the three artists before him, Warhol opted to paint directly onto the automobile himself instead of letting technicians transfer his scale-model design to the car. 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.