Andy Warhol: In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.


Yesterday I was discussing my obsession with fitness, beauty and appearance. Following up from yesterday’s post I would like to talk a little bit more about Andy Warhol.

Andy Warhol’s view on western consumer society is very interesting. Things are becoming fast and superficial. He told us so 50 years ago: “When I got my first television set, I stopped caring so much about having close relationships”.

He filled his studio with talented personalities – drag queens, musicians, artists, drug addicts and other “stars”. These people, their gayness, nudity and their drugs created an atmosphere of scandal. He created profit from scandal.

Andy Warhol enacted the truth. His comments were short, simple, machine-like, bored and repetitive. He usually stayed in the background behind the camera, behind the scenes, in control. He depicted and used reality (that he partially created or staged – similar to reality TV like Big Brother) for his purposes.

As a child Andy was good at drawing. In the 1950s he designed shop-windows and made beautiful ink drawings. Later on he was discovered by gallerists like Leo Castelli and became very successful.

The formal aspect of his work is very pop: bold, repetitive, machine-like, plastic-like, superficial, colourful, glamourous. His silkscreen technique allowed Andy to achieve perfection for a desired quantity of ever-same artworks that favoured his message: the age of pop culture and of commerce had arrived – even in the art world. Low-cost everyday objects like soup cans or boxes of soap pads transformed into works of art.

Andy Warhol set up a structure that enabled him to make art which could be produced quickly and at feasible costs in desired quanitites giving maximum possible output. He mirrored where society is heading: “I love Los Angeles. I love Hollywood. They’re beautiful. Everybody’s plastic, but I love plastic. I want to be plastic”.

Andy Warhol’s way of enhancing the value of his artworks was innovative. The factory and the personalities related to the factory (e.g. Edie Sedgwick, Gerald Malanga, Ondine, several drag queens, Nico, Baby Jane Holzer, Bibbe Hansen,…) were intentionally used as “marketing tools” and functional to the concept of marketing “ANYTHING” by giving it the label of an “ARTWORK”.

The experimental and political nature of his work is puzzling. This makes Andy Warhol so interesting. He appealed to a very diverse range of people.

On the one hand he was a pop icon making powerful colourful portraits of stars such as Jackie Kennedy, Mao Tse Tung and Marilyn Monroe. On the other hand he alternated the monotony and boredom of life with political statements. Sometimes the boredom of the life he portrayed was reflected in his films: “Sleep”, “Eat”, Blow Job. Another blatant example of boredom and meaninglessness is this video about eating a hamburger.

He claimed: “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.”

Today it is possible for everybody to be world-famous for 15 minutes even if it takes a lot of commitment to achieve these 15 minutes. It would be very interesting how bloggers who work hard to achieve those 15 minutes of fame (or traffic) feel about Andy Warhols statement.

Thinking about Andy Warhol:

a. The wig (today artists especially females do a lot more to themselves than wearing a wig: silicone breasts, liposuction, hair extensions, permanent makeup – yet at the time Andy Warhol showed the world that being a star means being a cyber-like person – so unreal, so plastic-like)
b. The androgynous look: somewhere between man and woman (like Michael Jackson)
c. The silver foil in the factory (silver represents a decadence, a carefree environment of sexual radicalism, transgression, parties, drugs and money)
d. His interest and ability to provoke scandal (scandal = freedom, freedom = honesty)
e. The way the people in the factory were portrayed and became stars (voyeurism: a deep need to share (real) stories)
f. Andy Warhol’s nearness to glamour (hypothesis: juxtaposing ANYTHING and a star makes ANYTHING become glamourous?)
g. He showed that our lives are about beauty, money, diet, blow jobs, eating and sleeping. Our best way to perceive reality is through a screen. He recognised this 50 years ago!
g. His profound assessment of life. Andy Warhol said:
“I am a deeply superficial person”
“I like boring things”
“It’s the movies that have really been running things in America ever since they were invented. They show you what to do, how to do it, when to do it, how to feel about it, and how to look how you feel about it”
“I never think that people die. They just go to department stores.”
“I’d asked around 10 or 15 people for suggestions. Finally one lady friend asked the right question, ‘Well, what do you love most?’ That’s how I started painting money”
“I’m afraid that if you look at a thing long enough, it loses all of its meaning”
“I’m the type who’d be happy not going anywhere as long as I was sure I knew exactly what was happening at the places I wasn’t going to. I’m the type who’d like to sit home and watch every party that I’m invited to on a monitor in my bedroom”
“Employees make the best dates. You don’t have to pick them up and they’re always tax-deductible”

Have a look at this website for more quotes from Andy Warhol.

For a deeper insight into Andy Warhol’s life I have added 29 pages in the upper part of this post. It is a research project I wrote about Andy Warhol in 1991 for my art class in school.

Please comment about what you think about Andy Warhol and what aspects I may have left out in this post. Also I would be interested how you feel about the 15 minutes of fame.

This post is also available in: German