June 3, On This Day
The shot that killed an artist 19 years later
At the time he was shot, Andy Warhol was one of the most recognized and popular artists in America. On June 3, 1968, Valerie Solanas entered Andy Warhol’s sixth-floor office at 33 Union Square West in New York City. With a .32 Beretta, she shot both Warhol and Mario Amaya, the London art gallery owner he was meeting with, then left the building. The latter was not badly wounded but Warhol took a bullet that tore through his stomach, liver, spleen, oesophagus and both lungs. Briefly declared dead at one point, doctors somehow revived him. He spent two months in the hospital recuperating and wore a surgical corset for the rest of his life to hold his organs in place.
Solanas surrendered to a young cop at Times Square shortly later. Later, she was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. She was released in late 1971. Eventually, she died alone in 1988, 14 months after Warhol passed on.
Prior to this incident, she called herself a radical feminist and is best known for writing the SCUM Manifesto (Society for Cutting Up Men). She had been trying to get Warhol to produce her play Up Your Ass; he had at some point given her a scene in one of his films, I, a Man, for $25. She later came to believe that Warhol (who had not yet returned her play’s manuscript as he had seemingly misplaced it) was stealing her ideas. He had also stopped taking her incessant calls, fuelling her paranoia. She later cited “he controlled my life” as reason for her actions.
The shooting had a major impact on Warhol’s life and work. He became much more guarded, abandoning much of his filmmaking and more controversial art and focusing more on business. His fear and loathing of hospitals intensified hugely, though he embraced alternative health treatments like healing crystals. This reticence produced fatal results on February 21, 1987, when Warhol died of cardiac arrest suffered after gallbladder surgery, a procedure that he had delayed for several years due to his aversion.