Andy Warhol was an American artist who was a leading figure in the visual art movement known as pop art. He was born in Pittsburgh, USA, in 1928. His works explore the relationship between artistic expression, celebrity culture and advertisement that flourished by the 1960s. After a successful career as a commercial illustrator, Warhol became a renowned and sometimes controversial artist. The Andy Warhol Museum in his native city, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, holds an extensive permanent collection of art and archives. It is the largest museum in the United States dedicated to a single artist.
Warhol’s art encompassed many forms of media, including hand drawing, painting, printmaking, photography, silk screening, sculpture, film, and music. He was also a pioneer in computer-generated art using Amiga computers that were introduced in 1984, two years before his death.
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.“
He founded Interview Magazine and was the author of 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. His studio, The Factory, was a famous gathering place that brought together distinguished intellectuals, drag queens, playwrights, Bohemian street people, Hollywood celebrities, and wealthy patrons.
On June 3, 1968, radical feminist writer Valerie Solanas shot Warhol and Mario Amaya, art critic and curator, at Warhol’s studio. Before the shooting, Solanas had been a marginal figure in the Factory scene. She had been turned away from the Factory after asking for the return of a script she had given to Warhol. The script had apparently been misplaced.
Amaya received only minor injuries and was released from the hospital later the same day. Warhol 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, including being required to wear a surgical corset. 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. After the shooting, the Factory scene became much more tightly controlled, and for many the „Factory 60s“ ended.
„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.“
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“. Many of his creations are very collectible and highly valuable. The highest price ever paid for a Warhol painting is 105 million US-Dollar for a 1963 canvas titled „Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster)“. Warhol’s works include some of the most expensive paintings ever sold. He died in February 1987.
David Bowie about Andy Warhol:
“I met him a couple of times, but we seldom shared more than platitudes. The first time we saw each other an awkward silence fell till he remarked my bright yellow shoes and started talking enthusiastically. He wanted to be very superficial. And seemingly emotionless, indifferent, just like a dead fish.
Andy always wore those silver wigs, but he never admitted it were wigs. One of his hairdressers has told me lately that he had his wigs regularly cut, like it were real hair. When the wig was trimmed, he put on another next month as if his hair had grown.”