Andy Warhol has himself become an eternal icon in the church of commerce, a commodity used to sell the mythology of celebrity and status. In 2013, his painting Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) sold for $104.5 million, which is one of the highest sums ever collected for any piece of art in the history of the world.
Success is when the checks don’t bounce.
What is it about Warhol’s paintings that make them so valuable, and how did his appropriation of commercial images contribute to creating an entirely new form of art? He is considered by many the godfather of the postmodern era, as well as a pioneer of new methods in film, photography, and music.
It’s not what you are that counts, it’s what they think you are.
Warhol launched his career as a commercial illustrator in New York City in the early 50s. For about ten years, he produced whimsical illustrations like this.
In about 1961, Warhol experimented with appropriating banal commercial images, like Campbell’s soup cans and Brillo pads, into his art exhibits. This postmodern mixing of “low art” and “high art” outraged both critics and viewers, but it was this subversive act that ushered him into fame.
Art is what you can get away with.
I will go to the opening of anything, including a toilet seat.
Warhol understood commercialism, and he used his intuitive understanding of advertising to propel himself into the limelight. Soon, celebrity highbrows sought immortality through his postmodern mastery. Anyone who was anyone flocked to his studio, “The Factory” to pose for Polaroids, which would later be transformed into silkscreen paintings.
Here is a small sampling of his celebrity Polaroids and silkscreen paintings.
It was Warhol who changed the way the world sees art. His legacy continues, and not only that, it has permeated the fabric of American culture.
What’s great about this country is America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you can know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good.
Suggested for further reading and viewing:
“Andy Warhol and His Process” by Roger Kamholz.