Andy Warhol (* 6 August 1928 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; † 22 February 1987 in Manhattan, New York City; real name Andrew Warhola) was an American artist, filmmaker and publisher. 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 (1966–1967).
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 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.
The US-American painter was one of the founders and perfectors of Pop Art. In it, he propagated the "American way of life". A characteristic of his work was the serial production of his artworks in the so-called "Factory", which was run by friends and co-workers. Andy Warhol produced silkscreens of mass idols from music, film or politics such as Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, John F. Kennedy or Mao Zedong. Screen prints of everyday objects such as soup cans, Coke bottles or bank notes confronted the viewer with familiar objects in an artificial, pop world.
Warhol's model was the Dadaist demand for the abolition of the separation between art and life. These works made him one of the most famous artists of his time from the 1970s onwards...
There is disagreement about his exact date and place of birth. Andy Warhol's father, who worked in coal mining, is said to have died as early as 1942. The son grew up with his mother Julia Warhola. The young Warhol was interested in pictures from an early age. He initially trained as a window dresser. From 1945 to 1949 he studied at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh. After he finished his studies, he did advertising for a shoe manufacturer in New York. He also worked as a commercial artist and illustrator for various magazines, such as "Vogue" and "Harper's Bazaar". During this time he changed his original name to Andy Warhol. In 1952, a solo exhibition of his work was held for the first time at the Hugo Gallery in New York. During this and the following period he designed stage sets. Andy Warhol had his hair dyed bright, which became his personal trademark. In 1956, his exhibited advertising drawings for shoes won the "Thirty Fifth Annual Art Director's Club Award". In 1957 he was honoured with an award for a shop window design. Two years later he exhibited his work for the first time at the Bodley Gallery.
From 1961 - at the same time as Roy Lichtenstein - Warhol began to depict everyday things and mass products, such as Coca-Cola bottles, in comic style. At first he drew his works by hand.
From 1962 onwards, he used the screen-printing process as a means of reproduction. He also produced reproductions of photographs, which he supplemented with bright colours. He caused a sensation among experts and outside with his depictions of mass-produced everyday products. Warhol thus advanced to become an "anti-artist". In 1962, he took part in the "New Realists" exhibition at the Janis Gallery.
Warhol had long since become one of the leading avant-garde artists who represented and realised Pop Art. His portrait paintings with prominent personalities from music, politics or film became famous. He produced works of Jacqueline Kennedy or Elizabeth Taylor, based on photographs. Warhol's oil painting entitled "Campbell Soup Can with Detached Label" achieved a price of 60,000 US dollars at an auction at the time.
In 1963, he founded the "Factory" in New York, a unique community of working and living space for artists and intellectuals. From this point on, Andy Warhol stopped painting himself. The production of the silkscreen paintings was taken over by friends as well as co-workers. Not only industrially produced consumer goods, such as detergent packs or tins, were depicted, but also entire series of disasters and catastrophes. As early as 1962, the first picture was created as a reproduction of newspaper cuttings about plane crashes and car accidents. With the help of the serigraphy technique, Warhol was able to reconstruct the poor quality of the newspaper illustration for his own works in order to give the whole work the necessary authenticity. Thus, a small newspaper article about a plane crash was enlarged to a height of two and a half metres. In this way, Warhol not only documented the plane crash, but also the human suffering through the sharpness of detail.
In his works, Andy Warhol represented a provocative concept of art that revolved centrally around the fact that the artist must remain behind the mass production process as a synonym for de-individualisation. This conception of art was in clear contrast to all previous concepts of art, in which the artist was always a part. Warhol was also at home in the film medium. However, he mainly did not make commercial films, but undergrounds. Like his paintings, his films also depicted processes in everyday life, such as kissing or cutting hair. He developed his films into curiously grotesque works in which, for example, a man was filmed sleeping for over six hours. But Andy Warhol also devoted himself to commercial film. His work "Chelsea Girls", completed in 1966, was well received and successful in the cinemas. In the same year, 1966, Warhol founded the rock group "Velvet Underground", which was a visible sign of his demanded connection between art and life, because especially in the pop and rock genres, the connection between creativity on the one hand and mass production and mass success in sales on the other hand is also evident.
The versatile artist produced multimedia shows in his "Factory" and was considered a pioneer in both conceptual and technical realisation. Andy Warhol was also active as a theatre and book author with his play "Pork" (1971) and his novel "a" (1972). But not with equal success: the play was not well received and his book title only moderately. In contrast, he had bestseller success with his book of photographs "America", published in 1986. In the 1980s, Warhol worked with artist friends such as Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Francesco Clemente. During this phase, he created several joint paintings; each artist worked in his own technique and combined it on one canvas. His painting and graphic works include "One Hundred Campbell's Soup Cans", "Daily News", "Plane Crash", "Pepsi Cola", "Marilyn Monroe" (1962), "5 Death 11 Times in Orange", "Green Disaster" (1963), "Thirteen Most Wanted Men", "Elvis Presley" (1964), "Jackie Kennedy" (1965), "Electric Chair" (1966), "Mao Tse Tung" (1972), "Fourteen Little Electric Chairs" (1980), "Rifle" (1981), "Oxidation" (1982) and "Self Portrait" (1986).
Andy Warhol died on 22 February 1987 as a result of gall bladder surgery in a New York clinic.
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265 | Green Car Crash (Green Burning Car I), 1963
265 | Green Car Crash (Green Burning Car I), 1963
Synthetic polymer, silkscreen ink and acrylic on linen, 228,6 x 203,2 cm
© Christie‘s Images / Bridgeman Images
Andy Warhol © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Bildrecht, Wien 2021
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