Andy Warhol: A synonym for controversy | Sunday Observer

Andy Warhol: A synonym for controversy

8 August, 2021

Andy Warhol born Andrew Warhola; (August 6, 1928 – February 22, 1987) was an American artist, film 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, advertising, and celebrity culture 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 films Empire (1964) and ’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.

He promoted a collection of personalities known as Warhol superstars, and is credited with inspiring 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 lived openly as a gay man before the gay liberation movement. In June 1968, he was almost killed by radical feminist Valerie Solanas who shot him inside his studio.

After gallbladder surgery, Warhol died of cardiac arrhythmia in February 1987 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.

Paintings

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. Warhol's first pop art paintings were displayed in April 1961, serving as the backdrop for New York Department Store Bonwit Teller's window display.

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.

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 colours — whether he painted celebrities, everyday objects, or images of suicide, car crashes, and disasters, as in the 1962–63 ’Death and Disaster’ series.

Some of Warhol's work, as well as his own personality, has been described as being Keatonesque.

Collections

Warhol was an avid collector. His friends referred to his numerous collections, which filled not only his four-story townhouse, but also a nearby storage unit, as "Andy's Stuff." The true extent of his collections was not discovered until after his death, when The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh took in 641 boxes of his "Stuff."

One of his main collections was his wigs. Warhol owned more than 40 and felt very protective of his hairpieces, which were sewn by a New York wig-maker from hair imported from Italy. In 1985 a girl snatched Warhol's wig off his head. It was later discovered in Warhol's diary entry for that day that he wrote: "I don't know what held me back from pushing her over the balcony."

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