(Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1928 - 1987, New York, New York)
There are varying accounts, many of them attributed to Andy Warhol himself, regarding the date and place of Warhol’s birth. (1) What is most likely true is that Andrew Warhola was born in his home in an immigrant ghetto of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on August 6, 1928. (2) Born to Onjrew and Julia Warhola, Andrew (who became known as Andy) was the last of four children—sister Justina, who died in infancy, and brothers Paul and John. Warhol and his brothers were first generation Americans; their father immigrated to the United States in 1912 from a village in Czechoslovakia’s Carpathian Mountains. Onjrew Warhola worked in Pennsylvania’s coalfields, making money to live and to bring his wife Julia to the United Sates in 1921. The couple raised their children in the Eastern Orthodox Church, impacting Andy Warhol greatly. He remained a devout Catholic throughout his lifetime.
As a young boy, growing up during the Great Depression, Warhol rarely spent time with his father who needed to travel in order to find work. Instead, he developed a close relationship with his mother. Julia Warhola spent much of her time with Warhol due to the numerous childhood illnesses including scarlet fever that kept him home from school. Additionally, Warhol suffered from several bouts of chorea, also known as St. Vitus’ dance, beginning when he was eight. Likely a result of rheumatic fever, this condition affected the central nervous system causing seizures, uncontrolled shaking, and splotches on the skin, all of which Warhol experienced. After a prolonged recovery, Warhol returned to school but soon suffered a relapse. During his recuperation, Warhol rested in bed and followed the lives of Hollywood stars in various magazines, newspapers, and tabloids. Also feeding his future creative endeavors was the time he spent reading comic books, coloring, sketching, and playing with cut out dolls. His mother, who raised money by selling her flowers made from cut up tin cans, encouraged his artistic forays. (3) By his ninth birthday, Warhol had returned to school. He also began taking photographs with a Brownie camera around this period, instilling a love of photography that lasted the rest of his life. On Saturday mornings Warhol attended art classes held at the Carnegie Museum and the introduction to the great works of art in the collection, as well as instruction from his teachers, provided a solid technical foundation for his art. As he entered high school, Warhol continued to thrive in his art classes. As a result, when his father died when he was thirteen, and enough money had been set-aside in savings bonds to cover the college costs for one child, the family chose Warhol to further his education.
In September 1945, Warhol began taking classes at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh. Initially, due in part to his undiagnosed dyslexia, Warhol had difficulties in his academic classes. His uneven performance (he did well in his art and design courses) in conjunction with the influx of returning veterans, caused school administers to ask Warhol to leave school after his second year. The lobbying of several teachers granted him the opportunity to attend summer school with the option of applying in the fall for readmission. Warhol took advantage of this break, creating a body of successful work that led to his first exhibition within the department and the awarding of the Leisser Prize of forty dollars for the best work created by a sophomore student during the summer. (4) After readmission, he also participated in campus activities including becoming the art director of “The Cano” the University’s literary magazine.
While in school, Warhol began to develop his personal style. He experimented with different ways of creating an image and found the technique that became a signature element of his early works—the blotted-line drawings. To make these drawings, Warhol hinged two-pieces of paper together and, after applying ink on one side, folded and pressed the blank page to the original, creating a blotted-line mirror image. At the beginning of his senior year, with a portfolio of works made in this manner along with some paintings in hand, Warhol travelled to New York with fellow student, realist painter Philip Pearlstein (American, born 1924). During this trip he met with the art director of “Glamour” magazine who encouraged him to follow up with her after his graduation. Returning to school, Warhol worked collaboratively with Pearlstein on several projects including a student play and an illustrated children’s book.
After graduating in 1949, Warhol and Pearlstein moved to New York and shared a Lower East side apartment. With this fresh start, Warhol dropped the “a” from Warhola and adopted the shortened form of his name. Reintroducing himself to Tina Fredericks at “Glamour” resulted in his first freelance job, illustrating the article, “Success Is a Job in New York.” Additional meetings with art directors at various other magazines led to a number of fashion illustration assignments. Soon, Warhol was a busy and hard-working commercial artist. Pearlstein recalled Warhol as “a workaholic who sat at a table and worked all day and often late at night. He would do several versions of each assignment, showing all of them to art directors, who loved him for that.”(5) It was his dedication to professionalism along with ambition that made Warhol a successful illustrator. His work during this period included advertising, window dressing, and illustrated books, all in a signature style that embodied “eccentricity, whimsy, and charm.”(6) On a more serious note, in September 1951, Warhol created a bolder drawing of a sailor injecting heroin to advertise a radio program exploring crime. The advertisement ran in the New York Times and led to Warhol’s first professional award, the Art Directors’ Club gold medal. He took on agent Fritzie Miller, who lined up new magazine accounts for Warhol including “McCall’s,” the “Ladies Home Journal,” “Harper’s Bazaar,” and “Vogue.”
By 1955, with Miller’s help, he landed his biggest account: illustrating I. Miller shoes for their weekly advertisement in the Sunday New York Times. This campaign became his most successful commercial design and led to several additional awards. His achievements led to more work and higher commissions, which allowed Warhol to purchase a townhouse on the upper east side of New York for him and his mother. Even illustrations rejected by I. Miller found an audience. Warhol began framing and selling them for twenty-five dollars apiece at one his favorite hangouts, the ice cream shop Serendipity on East 60th Street, where he also, on occasion, produced drawings as payment for meals.
During the early 1950s, Warhol reinvented himself physically for the first time. Hoping to improve his looks, he had his nose sanded, and after loosing much of his hair by the time he was in his early twenties, took to wearing a silver wig. He explained his choice of color: “I decided to go gray so nobody would know how old I was and I would look younger to them than how old they thought I was. …I would be relieved of the responsibility of acting young—I could occasionally lapse into eccentricity or senility and no one would think anything of it because of my gray hair. When you’ve got gray hair, every move you make seems ‘young’ and ‘spry,’ instead of just being normally active. It’s like you’re getting a new talent. So I dyed my hair gray when I was about twenty-three or twenty-four.”(7) He also started to break free from commercial work by reaching out to galleries to position himself as a fine artist.
His first exhibition showcased drawings illustrating writings by Truman Capote, one of his idols, at Alexander Iolas’ Hugo Gallery in June 1952. Several group and solo exhibitions at the Loft Gallery followed in 1954. While Warhol’s work received poor reviews, the gallery showing was beneficial in other ways: he met one of the employees at the gallery, Vito Giallo, who, for a short time became Warhol’s first assistant. His second assistant Nathan Gluck joined in 1955. In 1956, for his first exhibition at the Bodley Gallery, Warhol exhibited sexualized imagery of young men. Few works sold, but the gallery owner, David Mann, arranged for several of the more subtle pieces to be included in the exhibition Recent Drawings at the Museum of Modern Art. His second exhibition at the gallery later that year was much more successful. Author Victor Bockris states that this exhibition of large blotted line drawings of shoes identified with celebrities’ names was “Socially and artistically…a breakthrough.”(8) Between the two exhibitions, Warhol expanded his worldview by travelling to Japan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Southeast Asia, and Italy with his friend, art director Charles Lisanby (American 1924–2013).
By the late 1950s, Warhol was doing very well financially between his commercial commissions and his forays into selling both directly to patrons and at galleries. With his newfound financial security he formed Andy Warhol Enterprises, began collecting art (mostly American folk art) and investing in the stock market. (9) At the end of the decade, Warhol pushed even harder to break away from commercial work. Philosopher and critic Arthur Danto explains this period as transformative: “The years 1959 and 1961 constitute a zone of biographical change between two stages of Warhol’s life, a zone of transfiguration. He was transformed from a highly successful commercial artist into a member of the New York avant-garde.” (10)
In April 1961, he featured a group of paintings based on comic book characters such as Popeye and Little Nancy and advertising images in a one-week exhibition/window design as a backdrop to the latest fashions at department store Bonwit Teller. These paintings included some gestural marks and drips that attempted to incorporate some aspects of the prevailing art movement of the day, Abstract Expressionism. Admiring artists Jasper Johns (American, born 1930) and Robert Rauschenberg (American, 1925–2008), Warhol initially struggled to find his place between Abstract Expressionism and what these artists were creating. Visits to the Leo Castelli Gallery, which represented Johns and Rauschenberg, and where Warhol desperately wanted to show, introduced him to the work of Roy Lichtenstein (American, 1923–1997) whose work also took inspiration from comic books. Wanting to go in a different direction, Warhol stopped working with this source material. Instead, he began a new series featuring a common cultural product: Coca-Cola. Warhol initially created two versions of this work and presented them to his friend, stylist and documentary filmmaker Emile de Antonio (American, 1919–1989). De Antonio recounts the event:
“[Andy] put two large paintings next to one another. Usually he showed me the work more causally, so I realized that this was a presentation. He had painted two pictures of Coke bottles about six feet tall. One was just a pristine black-and-white Coke bottle. The other had a lot of Abstract Expressionist marks on it. I said, ‘Come on, Andy, the abstract one is a piece of shit, the other one is remarkable. It’s our society, it’s how we are, it’s absolutely beautiful and naked, and you ought to destroy the first one and show the other.’” (11)
De Antonio’s response had a great effect. From that point on, Warhol created his signature look of presenting cultural icons or “twentieth-century ‘folk’ objects… just the way they looked.”(12) Warhol often turned to friends, colleagues, and peers to generate ideas for his work. He once stated, “I always get my ideas from people. Sometimes I don’t change the idea. Or sometimes I don’t use an idea right away, but may remember it and use for something later on. I love ideas.”(13) His next inspiration came from interior designer Muriel Latow, who he paid fifty dollars to brainstorm his next direction. She provided two ideas that he would seize upon: first, that he should paint what he liked most in the world, which was money, and second, to paint an object that people were familiar with, like a soup can. Warhol, who had loved soup since he was a child, and ate it for lunch often, was particularly excited about this idea. He created thirty-two varieties of Campbell’s soup, each one grandly isolated on the canvas. With this series, along with works depicting dollar bills, Warhol established a new working method. He began experimenting with using a stencil and screen-printing. He explains, “In August ’62 I started doing silkscreens. The rubber stamp method I’d been using to repeat images suddenly seemed too homemade; I wanted something stronger which gave more of an assembly-like effect. With silkscreening, you pick a photograph, blow it up, transfer it in glue onto silk, and then roll ink across it so the ink goes through the silk but not through the glue. That way you get the same image, slightly different each time. It was all so simple—quick and chancy. I was thrilled with it.”(14) In May 1962, Ferrus Gallery in Los Angeles displayed the entire series.
A few months later, Warhol gained acceptance in the New York art world with a November show at the Stable Gallery featuring another new series. Images of celebrities such as Elvis Presley, Troy Donohue, Warren Beatty, and most famously, Marilyn Monroe who had just committed suicide. Using a publicity image from the movie “Niagara” (1953), Warhol cropped Monroe’s face and created numerous iterations of bright, and often garishly colorful, canvases of the actresses’ visage. Warhol stated, “I just see Monroe as another person. I wouldn’t have stopped her from killing herself. I think everyone should do whatever they want to do and if that made her happier, then that is what she should have done. As for whether it’s symbolic to paint Monroe in such violent colors: It’s beauty, and she’s beautiful, and if something’s beautiful, it's pretty colors, that’s all. Or something.”(15) The exhibition almost sold out, and included a sale of a “Marilyn” to the Museum of Modern Art. Additionally, it solidified Warhol’s reputation as a Pop Art icon. (16) The successful year concluded with the inclusion of his work in “The New Realists,” a group exhibition at the Sidney Janis Gallery. Many older artists associated with abstraction disavowed this divisive exhibition, and several established artists such as Philip Guston (American, born Canada, 1923–1980), Robert Motherwell (American, 1915–1991), Adolph Gottlieb (American, 1903–1974), and Mark Rothko (American, 1903–1970) left the gallery’s stable in protest.
This period became one of Warhol’s most productive, and he embarked on several new series including the “Death and Disaster” paintings (of images pulled from newspaper headlines, an idea generated by curator Henry Geldzahler who implored Andy to “look at the dark side of American culture”).(17) As Warhol became more successful, he found he needed more space and additional help. He first moved into a former firehouse on Eighty-seventh Street in 1963, and in the following year, to the loft at 231 East Forty-seventh Street, which became known as “the Factory” for the silver interior created by assistant Billy Name. The young poet Gerard Malanga (American, born 1973) became his assistant with the silk-screen process and many of the other people who hung out (actors, celebrities, rock stars, and fans) at the Factory helped Warhol with his work.
In January 1964, Warhol had his first European exhibition at the Ileanna Sonnabend Gallery in Paris where he showed his “Flowers” series. Later that year, he debuted his “Brillo Boxes” and other grocery box sculptures in what became his last exhibition with Stable Gallery. Soon after, Warhol was finally able to realize his goal of showing with Leo Castelli Gallery who offered him an exhibition in November to show his “Flowers” series in New York. In 1965, he enjoyed his first museum retrospective at the Institute of Contemporary Art on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia. His popularity as an artist was so high at this point that crowds surged the gallery on opening night, chasing Warhol and his companion Edie Sedgwick upstairs, while curators removed the paintings from the walls for their safety. Eighteen months after his first exhibition at the Leo Castelli Gallery, he had a second, showing bright yellow wallpaper adorned with pink cows and floating silver Mylar pillows. Surprisingly, at the height of his popularity, he declared this would be his last exhibition. Warhol planned to retire from art making to focus exclusively on filmmaking, which he had begun to experiment with in 1963. Ultimately, between 1963 and 1968 Warhol created sixty films. According to critic Maurice Berger his film output is “one of the most influential and consequential oeuvres of avant-garde cinema in the twentieth century. His interest in film was shaped by his friendships and encounters with key figures in avant-garde theater in film.”(18)
Warhol’s first movies, filmed with a Bolex 8-mm camera, were hours-long voyeuristic views into mundane activities such as sleeping, eating, getting a haircut, and kissing. The pared down and almost hypnotic action was a result of Warhol’s determination to project the films more slowly than they were shot. This style culminated in what many critics considered his masterpiece, a single-shot eight-hour portrait of the Empire State building captured from dusk to early morning. Beginning in 1964, Warhol began filming with larger casts. These movies had loose plots with free-flowing dialogue and actors that Warhol selected after submitting them to a three minute “screen test”. Many featured in his films—a collection of friends, artists, young disaffected socialites, and transvestites—became known as “superstars.” His first “superstar” was socialite Mrs. Leonard “Baby Jane” Holzer. Others included Edie Sedgwick, Candy Darling, Ondine, Viva, Ultra Violet, and International Velvet. They all hung out at the Factory, participated in films, and accompanied Warhol out in the evenings to numerous nightclubs, parties, and events.
In addition to making art, in 1966 Warhol opened his own nightclub, The Exploding Plastic Inevitable, and promoted the rock band the Velvet Underground. He worked on films from late morning through the afternoon, attended social events until late in the night, and then started again the next day, a routine he kept up for the rest of his life. He said, “I have Social Disease. I have to go out every night…. I love going out every night. It’s so exciting.”(19)
The artist Richard Serra remembered Warhol out on the town; “I used to see him every night in Max’s. Warhol was already a historical figure. His people were making up their own tradition, and it freed all of us. He gave us a larger permission, a greater freedom to look at a larger reference in American culture. Everybody understood that he was right on the edge, completely awake. He was a strange and wonderful presence.”(20)
Although he was a constant presence in New York’s social scene, Warhol was quite shy and took to carrying a tape recorder constantly around 1964. The device, which he called “his wife”(21) allowed him to not only interview those he saw out each night, but also to keep notes of his interactions. He could reside in the periphery and let others do the talking. While Warhol strove to become “famous” and a celebrity, his insecurities made it difficult for him to fully participate in what was required to fulfill that persona completely. Demonstrating his reluctance to be fully on display, in 1967 he hired Allen Midgette to wear a wig and impersonate him at colleges and universities who paid Warhol to come and lecture. (22) When the deception came to light through stories in “Time” and “Newsweek” it caused a stir and Warhol went to each of the campuses to honor the obligations.
One high note in 1968, during an otherwise difficult year filled with trying to complete films, his lecture circuit controversy, and lower sales of his work, was Warhol’s first European retrospective. Held at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Sweden, the accompanying catalogue included, for the first time, Warhol’s most well known phrase: “In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.”(23) To get a handle on his own fame, and to manage his business, Warhol hired Fred Hughes—who took over bringing in commissions to raise money for films, and helped with other sales—along with Paul Morrissy, who took on much of filmmaking. With new assistants, Warhol moved the Factory (now more office and studio then party scene) to Thirty-three Union Square West early in 1968. Embarking on a series of commissions and publishing “a: a novel,” which consisted of verbatim transcriptions of tape recorded monologues by superstar Ondine captured over a three year period, Warhol felt good with the direction of Warhol Enterprises.
His life changed dramatically later that year as a result of his slight acquaintance with Valerie Solanas. Solanas, the founder of the one-person organization, SCUM (the Society for Cutting Up Men) sent Warhol a film script she wrote in 1967. Although he read it—and thought it too depraved even for him to make—Warhol evidently lost the script. Solanas kept pestering Warhol for its return convinced he was withholding it from her. In an attempt to appease Solanas, Warhol paid her to act in his film, “I, a Man.” Though she worked in the film Solanas decided that was not enough to make amends. Claiming that Warhol had “too much control over her life,” she went to the studio on June 3, 1968, terrorized several of Warhol’s assistants and shot Warhol and the art historian Mario Amaya who was visiting that day. (24) As Danto recounts, “Warhol actually died—or was clinically dead—until brought back to life by open-heart massage. Solanas’s bullet could scarcely have done more harm: the bullet went in through his right side, passed through his lung, ricocheted through his throat, gallbladder, liver, spleen, and intestines, leaving a huge hold in his left side.” (25)
Warhol spent nearly two months in the hospital and another month at home recuperating before returning the Factory in September. He endured additional surgery in March 1969 to remove remnants of a bullet that the doctors were unable to take out originally, and he needed to wear a surgical corset for the rest of his life to hold in his stomach muscles. Warhol bore not only physical scars from this assassination attempt, he also became fearful of hospitals, of life, and of new people. He stated, “everything is such a dream to me. …I don’t know whether or not I’m really alive or whether I died. And having been dead once, I shouldn’t feel fear. But I am afraid. I don’t understand why.” (26) Additionally, adding to his anxiety, Solanas received a minimal three-year sentence and after leaving jail, continued to threaten Warhol by telephone. Despite his fear, and against the advice of one of his assistants, Paul Morrissy, who thought the Factory should be locked and visitors should go through a more rigorous screening process, Warhol continued his open-door policy. He stated, “Paul was right, of course…but choosing between which kids I would see and which I wouldn’t went completely against my style…. I was afraid that without the crazy, druggy people around jabbering away and doing their insane things, I would lose my creativity. After all, they had been my total inspiration since ’64, and I didn’t know if I could make it without them.” (27)
With the Factory continuing to create films and produce other works while he recovered, Warhol decided to take on additional projects once he returned to the studio and office. In 1969, he collaborated with editor and publisher John Wilcock on what became “Interview” magazine. The magazine gained recognition for its fresh approach of printing loose transcripts of interviews, mainly with Hollywood celebrities and musicians speaking with each other or with Warhol. This endeavor continued to feed into Warhol’s need to participate in the social scene at nightclubs and parties as he cultivated new subjects and lined up interviews while out every evening. Warhol and his assistants at the Factory were also active in preparing for his first American retrospective. The exhibition opened in May 1970 at the Pasadena Art Museum in California before travelling to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. It went overseas to Eindhoven, Holland; Paris, France; and London, England before returning to the United States with a presentation at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. The success of the retrospective coincided with a rise in prices for Warhol’s work. In fact, the day after the opening in Pasadena, one of Warhol’s soup can paintings sold for sixty thousand dollars at New York’s Parke-Bernet auction house. At the time, it was the highest price reached at auction for a piece by a living American artist.
As a result of his work reaching such high prices on the market, Warhol slowed his film output and re-entered the art world. He began to look at making art as a business. He stated, “Business art is the step that comes after Art. I started as a commercial artist, and I want to finish as a business artist. After I did the thing called ‘art’ or whatever it’s called, I went into business art. I wanted to be an Art Businessman or a Business Artist. Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. During the hippie era people put down the idea of business—they’d say, ‘Money is bad,’ and ‘Working is bad,’ but making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.” (28)
Returning to painting, Warhol again looked to popular culture for inspiration. In 1972, China’s Chairman, Mao Tse-tung, invited President Nixon to visit China. Seizing upon this event, Warhol began a large series of portraits of Chairman Mao comprised of varied brushstrokes overlaying Mao’s official photographic image. Like his earlier portraits of cultural figures, Warhol used bright, and often garish, colors. However the Mao portraits incorporated gestural brushstrokes that took on a painterly characteristic. Continuing in this manner, Warhol also began to incorporate drawn and painted lines, squiggles, and brushstrokes into his portraits of the wealthy and famous to compliment the silkscreened image. In the past, he often used pre-existing images in his silkscreens. By the 1970s, however, he began to utilize his own photographs as the basis for high-contrast silkscreens. His camera of choice was a bulky, simplistic camera made by Polaroid: the Big Shot. Warhol felt this camera was ideal for portraits as it had a fixed focal length of three-feet, allowing for close-ups while providing an almost instantaneous photograph. (29)
Vincent Freemont described the portrait sitting process for his female sitters: “Andy would also ask the women to remove some or all of their jewelry before white makeup was applied to their faces, necks, and shoulders. Making the face unnaturally white compensated for the effect of the flash cube, flattened and softened the surface of the women’s face, and hid unwanted wrinkles. This softening effect also helped with the high contrast which developed when the Polaroid was transferred to the acetates that were used to make the silkscreens and eventually, the paintings.”(30) While Warhol used this process for formal sittings, he also began carrying a camera constantly to capture friends in more casual situations. For these types of images he used a folding Land Camera, a Mino 35 EL, or an Olympus/Zuiko AF, shooting up to a roll a day of black and white film. (31) It is likely that he created the Polaroid images in the “Little Red Book” with the Land Camera, as they are primarily snapshots and not formal sittings. Like the voice recorder he carried, a camera was now always at hand. This was most apparent at New York’s disco club, Studio 54, which opened in early 1977. The exclusive nightclub admitted only the most famous, powerful, and beautiful people, becoming one of Warhol’s favorite spots “to observe, what he called the ‘bubonic plague of our time,’ the ‘social disease’ whose symptoms were an obsessive need to go out, the preference for exhilaration over conversation, unless the subjects were gossip, and the judging of a party’s success by how many celebrities were present.”(32)
At this time Warhol also began working in television. During his half hour cable show “Andy Warhol’s TV”, Warhol chatted with friends and other artists, held fashion shows, and introduced emerging rock stars. This venture brought him even more exposure, cementing his popularity in the public eye. Capitalizing on this celebrity, Warhol began working as a Ford model and as a paid spokesman for a variety of products including rums of Puerto Rico, Barney’s clothing store, Sony, New York Air, Coca-Cola, and Golden Oak furniture. Demonstrating how fully Warhol became a pop culture icon was his appearance, as himself, in an episode of the popular television series, “The Love Boat,” which aired on October 12, 1985.
Photographing both for pleasure and more formal portraiture (including a series of self-portraits) was only one part of Warhol’s artistic output at this time. Another series occupying him was the Oxidation paintings, created by Warhol or his assistants urinating on painted canvases to create abstract patterns generated by the chemical reactions between the paint and urine. In 1978, works from this series were included in Documenta 7, the prestigious contemporary exhibition organized every five years in Kassel, Germany. This body of work marks an extraordinary period of experimentation for Warhol. One that curator Joseph Ketner argues was the “most radical metamorphosis in his work since he adopted the screenprint process in 1962.” (33) Building on the success of the Oxidation paintings, Warhol continued to explore abstraction in the Shadows, Yarn, and Rorschach series. In the late 1970s and early 1980s he also began to revisit many of his earlier works, creating the both the “Retrospective” series and “Reversals,” a series in which he reinterpreted his Marilyns and Mona Lisa among others but with the color removed. And, at the urging on his dealer Bruno Bischofburger, Warhol embarked on a new collaborative project in 1984 painting jointly on single works with artists Jean-Michel Basquiat (American, 1960–1988) and Francesco Clemente (Italian, born 1952).
In January 1987, Warhol had one his most successful gallery shows in years when he exhibited hand-stitched photographs at the Robert Miller Gallery in New York. Later that month, Warhol attended his last opening in Milan, Italy. The exhibition—organized by Alexander Iolas, the dealer who had championed Warhol from the beginning and gave him his first gallery presentation—was a group show of artists’ reinterpretations of Leonardo da Vinci’s (Italian, 1452–1519) painting, “The Last Supper” (1495–1498). While in Italy, Warhol felt increasingly unwell due to enlarged gallstones, which had plagued him for several months. Although this was an ongoing problem Warhol initially refused treatment due to his extreme fear of hospitals. In February, the pain worsened and his doctors persuaded him to have the stones removed. He made it through a successful surgery on February 21, 1987 but at some point early the next morning Warhol died of cardiac arrest. During an investigation into his death, the New York State Department of Health believed that his postoperative care was lacking. As a result, Warhol’s estate filed a wrongful death suit and the hospital settled the case for three million dollars. (34)
After his death, Warhol’s celebrity continued to grow and his allure spilled onto objects he owned as evidenced by his personal collection raising $25,333,368 at Sotheby’s auctions from April 23 to May 3, 1988. (35) Sought after by many collectors, his works of art consistently reach very high prices at auction and prestigious museums worldwide continue exhibit his works in a multitude of thematic variations. There is also a museum dedicated to him: in 1994 The Andy Warhol Museum opened in his hometown of Pittsburgh. Warhol’s legacy is extensive; he is one of the artists most closely associated with the American Pop movement for his utilization of images found in popular culture and in the media as the basis of his work. His pioneering approach of blending high and low culture in a variety of areas—painter, printmaker, sculptor, filmmaker, photographer, magazine publisher, and television personality—brought him much recognition during his lifetime. And, reaching far beyond his works of art, his will stipulated the establishment of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Arts in 1987. The Foundation advances the visual arts through a variety of grants to arts organizations and writers, and gifts of art to museums.
(1) Resources pertaining to Andy Warhol’s work are numerous. Primary sources for this essay come from the following: Information on file, (Artist's Vertical File, MMFA Library and MMFA Objects Record File: 2013.16.1–21) Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Montgomery, AL; Brian Appel, “Andy Warhol: Red Books at Pace MacGill Gallery,” “Artcritical.com,” June 2004, http://www.artcritical.com/appel/BAWarhol.htm;
Jonathan P. Binstock, “Andy Warhol: Social Observer,” Philadelphia, PA: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 2000; Victor Bockris, “The Life and Death of Andy Warhol, New York, NY: Bantam Books, 1989; Francesco Clemente, “Andy Warhol Polaroids: Celebrities and Self-Portraits,” Cologne, Germany: Jablonka Galerie, 2000; Arthur C. Danto, “Andy Warhol,” New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009; Fraya Feldman and Jorg Schellman, “Andy Warhol Prints: A Catalogue Raisonne 1962–1987,” New York, NY: D.A.P. Distributed Art Publishers in association with Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, Inc., Edition Schellmann, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Art, Inc., 3rd edition, 1997; Vincent Freemont and Andy Grundberg, “Andy Warhol Polaroids 1971–1968,” New York, NY: Pace/MacGill Gallery, 1992; Wendy Grossman, ed., “Reframing Andy Warhol: Constructing American Myths, Heroes, and Cultural Icons,” College Park, MD: The Art Gallery at the University of Maryland, 1998; Joseph D. Ketner II, “Andy Warhol: the Last Decade,” New York: DelMonico Books/Prestel, 2009; Steven Koch. “Andy Warhol Photographs,” New York, NY: Robert Miller Gallery, 1987; Wayne Koestebenbaum, “Andy Warhol,” New York, NY: Penguin Putnam Group, 2001; Carter Ratcliff, “Andy Warhol,” New York, NY: Abbeville Press, 1983; Robert Rosenblum, “Andy Warhol: Portraits of the 70s,” New York, NY: Whitney Museum of Art, 1979; Justin Spring, “Andy Warhol: Fame and Misfortune,” San Antonio, TX: McNay Art Museum, 2012; Ian Thom, “Andy Warhol: Images,” Vancouver, Canada: Vancouver Art Gallery, 1995; Andy Warhol, “The Philosophy of Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again,” New York: NY, Harvest/Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1975; Andy Warhol and Bob Colacello, “Andy Warhol’s Exposures,” New York: Andy Warhol Books/Grosset & Dunlap, Inc., 1979; and Richard B. Woodward, “Andy Warhol: Polaroids 1958–1987,” Cologne, Germany: Taschen, 2015.
(2) Warhol told a number of stories about his birth, implying he was born in Cleveland, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. Some debate occurs around his birth date as well, and a reproduced birth certificate lists the dates as September 28, 1930. Warhol himself claimed the birth certificate a forgery, and other the consensus between several other scholars is that Warhol’s birth year was 1928. See Bockris, p. 12, Danto p. 1, and Ratcliff p. 11.
(3) Koestenbaum, p. 21.
(4) Koestenbaum, p. 21.
(5) Ibid, p. 53.
(6) Ibid, p. 53.
(7) Warhol, “The Philosophy of Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again,” p. 99.
(8) Bockris, p. 89.
(9) Ibid, p. 91.
(10) Danto, p. 2.
(11) Bockris, p. 98.
(13) Warhol quoted in Danto, p. 32-33.
(14) Warhol quoted in Thom p. 9-10.
(15) Bockris, p. 113.
(16) British critic Lawrence Alloway coined the term “Pop art” in 1958. Initially, he referred to the need for serious study of American mass-media popular culture, specifically Hollywood films relative to high art. However as Danto explained, the meaning shifted. “[B]y some sort of slippage, the term came exclusively to designate paintings—and sculptures—of things and images from commercial culture, or objects that everyone in the culture would recognize without having to have their use or meaning explained.” Danto p. 26.
(17) Bockris, p. 126.
(18) Maurice Berger, “Andy Warhol’s ‘Pleasure Principle,’” in Binstock, p. 25.
(19) Andy Warhol and Bob Colacello, p. 19.
(20) Richard Serra quoted in Bockris p. 211.
(21) Koestenbaum, p. 112.
(22) Koestenbaum, p. 130 and Bockris, p. 223.
(23) Bockris, p. 219
(24) Ratcliff, p. 59.
(25) Danto, p. 103-104.
(26) Ratcliff, p. 63.
(27) Ibid, p. 59-60.
(28) Warhol, “The Philosophy of Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again,” p.254.
(29) Polaroid stopped manufacturing the Big Shot in 1972 or 1973. As the camera had a tendency to break, Warhol stockpiled the cameras, buying them whenever he could find one for sale. Upon learning of his love of this particular model, Polaroid offered both repairs and maintenance of Warhol’s inventory of cameras and one of their executives, Eelco Wolf, found surplus inventory on his travels around the world and sent them on to Warhol for his use. Freemont and Grundberg, “Andy Warhol Polaroids” 1971–1968, New York, NY: Pace/MacGill Gallery, 1992. (Grundberg essay reprinted in “Reframing Andy Warhol”), p.15.
(30) Ibid, p.6.
(31) Woodward, p. 9.
(32) Bockris, p. 301.
(33) Ketner, 15.
(34) Koestenbaum, p. 214.