"In the future, everyone will be world famous for fifteen minutes." Andy Warhol's visionary tagline -- a ubiquitous reality in today's social media whirl. Photos are endlessly posted to Instagram, Twitter and Facebook in an attempt to visually chronicle "life." Yet, it was pop artist Andy Warhol (1928-1987) whose outrageous spin on the art of personal branding long preceded the selfie stick.
Warhol, whose oeuvre featured iconic celebrity portraits, a variety of soup de jours and countless candid Polaroids, is considered a pop-cultural superstar. On August 6th let's celebrate the birthday of this legendary artist. Happy Birthday, Andy Warhol!
Andrew Warhola, who was born to Slovakian immigrants in Pennsylvania, began his career as a commercial artist. Upon moving to New York City (and dropping the final a of his last name), Warhol launched his career at Glamour magazine, where his whimsical, hand-drawn advertisements gained swift recognition. Warhol was regarded as one of New York's leading commercial artists, working for Vogue, Tiffany's and The New York Times.
Well versed in the art of commercial advertisement, Warhol understood the persuasive power of imagery. Upon delving into painting, the artist chose recognizable consumer goods as his thematic focal point; Campbell's Soup and Coca-Cola were plucked out of the consumer's shopping cart and beatified into the extraordinary realm of "high art."
What makes Warhol's Campbell's Soup Cans (1962) and Green Coca-Cola Bottles (1962) such popular works is the overt usage of universal subject material. Children gobbled bowls of Campbell's Soup. Everyone downed Coca-Cola, the soda of choice. Thus, the inherent allure of Pop Art is revealed: art no longer needed to exist within the esoteric realms of 1950s Abstract Expressionism; contrarily, 1960s Pop Art was accessible to the masses as it celebrated (criticized?) popular culture. Art was served at the lunch table.
Warhol's distinctive work catapulted him to superstar status. He applied keen branding skills to craft his identity, an enigmatic, often elusive, persona. With white hair and dark sunglasses, Warhol arrived to events accompanied by a cool, aloof entourage. When asked to comment on his involvement with pop imagery, Warhol replied, "I'm too high right now. Ask somebody else something else." He repeatedly denied any social or political implications, but emphasized the superficial elements of his work. Effectively, Warhol controlled the ostensible intentionality of his work.
The breadth of Andy Warhol's oeuvre extends from Empire (1964), a silent black and white film featuring a continuous shot of the Empire State Building, to a silkscreen portrait of Mao (1973), to a shimmering Gold Marilyn Monroe (1962). Not to mention innumerable Polaroids featuring celebrities such as Yves Saint Laurent, Liza Minnelli, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mick Jagger. Warhol's persona, like his work, was commercially crafted. His enduring legacy is the result of a methodically crafted image and prolific body of work. In the words of quintessential New Yorker Fran Lebowitz, "Andy Warhol made fame more famous."