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Who Was Andy Warhol?


by Gail Sachson 23 Feb 2010

Guest blogger Gail Sachson owns Ask Me About Art, offering lectures, tours and program planning. She is Vice-Chair of the Cultural Affairs Commission and a member of the Public Art Committee. So who was Andy Warhol? Or who is Andy Warhol? He never really left us. His persona, portraits and paintings still grace museum walls, […]

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andyGuest blogger Gail Sachson owns Ask Me About Art, offering lectures, tours and program planning. She is Vice-Chair of the Cultural Affairs Commission and a member of the Public Art Committee.

So who was Andy Warhol? Or who is Andy Warhol? He never really left us. His persona, portraits and paintings still grace museum walls, auction halls, clothing, candies, perfume, plates and even skateboards.

Joseph Ketner, former Chief Curator of the Milwaukee Art Museum and organizer of “Andy Warhol:The Last Decade” now at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, says that Warhol is misunderstood, complex and filled with contradictions.

He was the man who his brother Paul said was never changed by money or material things. Yet, Warhol himself said his greatest joy was to shop, and he urged everybody to go out and buy something every day. He did! When he died in 1987, his  New York townhouse  was described as more of a storage closet than a home. He collected so many paintings, cookie jars, salt and pepper shakers, watches, rugs and jewelry that it took Sotheby’s 10 days to auction off the 10,000 items … for $25 million.

When Warhol came to New York in 1949 with fellow Carnegie Tech art student and roommate Philip Pearlstein, he was still Andy Warhola, the blond, blue-eyed boy from Pittsburgh who was an opera-going, culturally plugged-in church-going Catholic. Within a few years, he morphed into Andy Warhol,  seen as a “naive teeny bopper.” But was he really? Or was he a character in his own stage play?

Warhol strove for attention, popularity and recognition, yet he was a very private person and invited very few into his home.  He created The Factory, where he had his office  and partied and painted. He may have said little and appeared vapid, but he was an astute entrepreneur who realized the power of the change in the art world in the 60s, of commercialism and of pop culture.  And having made  money from art since he was 14, when he dressed windows after his father died, he continued to make money from making art. And he still does  even after death. The Andy Warhol Foundation, headed by his brother John, sells his work and his name for a lucrative profit, which it then disperses in grants for the visual arts.

Warhol brilliantly bridged the worlds of the rich and the poor, the art savvy and the unsophisticated. Who wouldn’t recognize a Campbell soup can, a Brillo box, a Marilyn or a Superman? Warhol was the precursor of reality T.V., interview talk shows and magazines like Paper City.

But who in the art world will take Warhol’s place today? Who is acknowledged as a credible force in the world of high art and equally adored in pop culture? It  really is a moot question, for Warhol still lives and still reigns supreme. His 15 minutes are far from over.

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