August 6, On This Day
Andrew Warhola — more popularly known as Andy Warhol — has an artistic legacy that seems almost too vast to describe.
Born on August 6, 1928, Warhol was a pioneer of pop art (mass-produced art that apotheosized the supposed banality of the commercial culture of the US), visual artist, film director, and producer. His artwork explored the relationship between artistic expression, advertising, and celebrity culture over a variety of media, including painting, silkscreening, photography, film, and sculpture. The American — born to immigrant parents from what is today Slovakia — is also a major icon for the LGBTQIA community, having lived as an openly gay man before the gay liberation movement.
Warhol actually started his career in commercial and advertising art, drawing shoes for Glamour magazine and later designing shoes. By the late 1950s, Warhol began to receive recognition as an influential and controversial artist. Eventually, 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).
Warhol’s New York studio —The Factory — became a well-known gathering place for distinguished intellectuals, drag queens, playwrights, Bohemian street people, Hollywood celebrities, and wealthy patrons. This collection of personalities was promoted and known as the Warhol superstars, and is credited with inspiring the widely used expression “15 minutes of fame”.
(In 1968 Warhol was shot and nearly killed by Valerie Solanas, one of an assemblage of underground film and rock music stars, assorted hangers-on, and social curiosities who frequented his studio, known as the Factory.)
Warhol had a re-emergence of critical and financial success in the 1980s, partially due to his affiliation and friendships with a number of prolific younger artists, who were dominating the “bull market” of 1980s New York art: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Julian Schnabel, David Salle and other so-called Neo-Expressionists, as well as members of the Transavantgarde movement in Europe, including Francesco Clemente and Enzo Cucchi. Warhol also earned street credibility and graffiti artist Fab Five Freddy paid homage to Warhol by painting an entire train with Campbell soup cans.
Nine months before his death, Warhol created a series of iconic monumental self-portraits featuring his gaunt face, fixed gaze, and a spiky wig, some of the canvases measuring nine feet square.
Warhol died on February 22, 1987, at age 58. According to news reports, he had been making a good recovery from gallbladder surgery at New York Hospital before dying in his sleep from a sudden post-operative irregular heartbeat.
The value of Andy Warhol’s work has been on an endless upward trajectory since his death 35 years ago.