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Biography of Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol was one of the major contributors to the American pop art movement, and one of the most famous and recognized artists from this period even to this day.

Andy Warhol

His paintings of various popular subjects, such as Elvis, Marylin Monroe, and even the common advertisements of the late 1950's and early 1960's are some of the most highly sought and valuable paintings in the world. His painting Eight Elvises, which features eight images of Elvis Presley side by side, eventually sold for over 100 millions dollars. He was an admirer of mass media and as such saw his work as something of a tribute to the advertisements and commercialism that were common in American culture. While this aspect of his art was highly criticized at the time, it allowed him enduring fame long after his time.


Warhol began as a commercial artist, creating prints for advertisements using what would eventually become his famous silk-screening technique. In the early 1960's he entered the world of fine art and begin to exhibit his work with other pop artists in several New York galleries before holding his first solo exhibition on the West Coast. He founded his studio in New York as well, which was called The Factory, and there he collaborated with many other artists—not only those in the visual arts, but also musicians, writers, and others. The Factory was not merely one location, but had many iterations over time and venues over time, the last of which was on 158 Madison Avenue.


He is credited with the popularization of silk-screen printing, an approach that he used to produce many of his paintings, where paint or ink was forced through a mesh. Some of his more well-known silk-screen paintings include his depictions of Marilyn Monroe and of Elvis Presley, though he did produce paintings of car crashes and other newsworthy events using this technique. These remain some of his most valued works.


Warhol was not without his detractors, however, even some who were murderously so. Valerie Solanas, a writer, a radical feminist, and an occasional visitor at The Factory, shot Warhol in 1968 over a dispute about a script which she had given to Warhol. Warhol's associate Mario Amaya was also shot, and while Amaya was not severely harmed, Warhol was profoundly wounded by the attack and nearly died at the hospital. Due to the shooting, Warhol's health would be affected for the rest of his life, and this resulted in a turning point in his work. He said that, before he was shot, he always felt a suspicion that he was detached from life—that he was a viewer more than a participant—and after the shooting, he felt that he no longer suspected, but rather knew that this was true. After the attack, the free comings and goings of artists through The Factory came to an end as security was tightened for the safety of Warhol and others. This in a lot of ways marked the end of an era, the end of Warhol's 1960's period.


In 1968, Warhol coined his most famous saying, which would go on to be reinterpreted and used in many situations that even Warhol had not intended: He said that, in the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes. What he meant by this was that mass media would eventually have a democratizing effect and that everyone would have a chance to be in the limelight. This came true to some extent decades later, as reality television and social media was invented and allowed everyday people to broadcast their lives to a wide audience.


Warhol used many different mediums to express himself artistically, including his well-known silk screen paintings, as well as music and film. Some of his films include Empire, which is essentially an eight hour film that consists of a continuous shot of the Empire State Building and nothing else; Sleep, which is footage of Warhol's friend sleeping for six hours; and Eat, a 45-minute film that features a man consuming mushrooms. Some of Warhol's films referenced the gay underground scene, and some of these were somewhat pornographic, like Blue Movie. Eventually, after being attacked by Solanas in 1968, Warhol grew disinterested in directing anymore films and instead focused his efforts elsewhere.


When it came to music, Warhol heavily involved himself with the Velvet underground and even paid for their studio time during the production of one of their albums. He also went on to design many album covers for prominent musical artists.


Warhol also published a few books, many of the filled with lithographs of his art, and most of them not intended for mass circulation, but rather for the enjoyment of people whom he knew personally. Once he had gained more prominence in the mainstream, he did publish books intended to be sold to a wider audience, and these included The Philosophy of Andy Warhol and a, A Novel. Some of these books were little more than transcriptions of Warhol and his friends talking.


He became famous by depicting mundane commercial art in his own way, and gained prominence through his Campbell's Soup Cans collection. Of all of his art, however, his silk-screen paintings remain the most well-known and the most valuable. Of these, Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) is his most expensive painting, and it sold for $105 million dollars in 2013, surpassing the record set by his painting Eight Elvises. His depictions of Marylin Monroe and other celebrities remain some of his most parodied works. His Shot Marylins, a collection of paintings of Monroe that had been shot with a gun by Dorothy Podber (who was subsequently banned from The Factory), would go on to become particularly valuable, and one of the paintings in the collection, Turquoise Marilyn, would sell for 80 million dollars in 2007.


Though he died of cardiac arrest following a gallbladder surgery in 1987, Warhol's work continues to influence pop art to this day and he is one of the most famous artists of the 20th century.


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