ANDY WA RH O L 1928–1987 COMMERCE INTO ART
Klaus Honnef Taschen
© 1993 Benedikt Taschen Verlag GmbH Rohenzollernring 53, D–50672 Koln
© Translated from the German by Carole Fahy and I. Burns for Bookdeals Translations 5, Mill Hill Alresford SO 24 9 DD, England
© Illustrations: The Estate of Andy Warhol, New York 1988
Edited by Angelika Muthesius Printed in Germany ISBN 3–8228–0565–3 GB
Andy Warhol 1928â€“1987 Commerce into Art Klaus Honnef Taschen
He had been trained as a commercial artist — he saw himself
as a “P URE ” artist— but he had in fact created a completely new type of artist, which irritated, shocked and
C H ANGED THE WORLD OF ART
06 Andy Warhol First Pop Star of the Art World
20 The Road to Fame from Commercial Artist to Celebrated Pop Artist
44 A Technique Becomes a Trademark Silkscreen Printing as an Art Form
70 From Underground Film Maker to Affluent Collector
FIRST POP STAR OF THE ART WORLD
When he appeared in public, he gave the impression of not being of this world. But he was the personification of the American Dream
There are even two versions (at least) of the date of
He was reserved with journalists and was clearly
life has been covered by as much writing (and gossip)
his death in circulation, but it seems certain that he
never comfortable being interviewed. During an
as has Andy Warhol’s. The pages written about his
died on February 22, 1987 as the result of gall bladder
interview for the German weekly illustrated
He was a legend in his own lifetime. Hardly anyone’s
life and work, if laid end to end, would reach half
surgery. His birthplace was Forest City, Pennsylvania
magazine Stern (October 8, 1981) a journalist
way round the world. Sometimes, when he appeared
and he was christened Andrew Warhola.
commented: “It is not fair to make Andy Warhol give this interview. He is suffering. He doesn’t want
in public, he gave the impression of not being of this
to open up.” Yet, no other artist of his time has left
world. Shy, friendly and usually smiling, part of him
It is difficult to find out the truth about the life of
always seemed to be somewhere else. But he was
Andy Warhol (the name he took after he moved
us with as many maxims as he did. As well as an
the personification of the American Dream—with
to New York in 1949). Contradictions seem to have
abundance of interviews and aphorisms he left us
a career which spanned washing dishes to becoming
been his life’s elixir, the veiling of biographical and
two autobiographies, although nobody can say
a millionaire (although, of course, he never actually
other personal facts the means he used to create a
for sure who actually wrote these books, Warhol
washed dishes). His was the archetypal rags to
mystery around himself. He had been trained as a
himself or one of his numerous ghost writers.
riches story. His date of birth is the subject of some
commercial artist—he saw himself as a “pure” artist—
controversy: different dates can be found in various
but he had in fact created a completely new type of
publications, but it does seem fairly certain that it
artist, which irritated, shocked and changed the world
occurred between 1928 and 1931. Andy Warhol
of art—although various aspects of the practice of his
himself claimed that his 1930 birth certificate had
art are firmly reminiscent of the practices of artists
been forged and June 6, 1928 is the date most
of the Renaissance and Baroque periods
frequently taken as his birthday.
“ Famous for
1 Roy Lichtenstein 1976 Acrylic and silkscreen on canvas 40 x 40 in 2 Liz Silkscreen on canvas 1965 42 x 42 in
3 Michael Jackson 1984 Silkscreen on canvas 30 x 26 in
Though he hardly ever missed out on any party
Andy Warhol was a dedicated and enthusiastic admirer
or public event within his reach, he loved to
of both film stars and the contemporary cult figures
be represented by a double. “Andy” was seen
of North American literature. He collected their
everywhere and in the land of unlimited opportunities
autographs and even wrote to Truman Capote, the
and vast distances the use of a double was hardly
pet of the New York culture scene, who, however, did
ever noticed. The truth did occasionally come to light,
not favor him with a reply. The superstars he depicted,
though. The first time was on an occasion when
however, were to replace the stars of the heroic phase
Warhol was celebrating his first commercial success
of American films, themselves to become threatened
as a film maker with The Chelsea Girls. Subsequently,
by megastars, overnight celebritiesaof the world of
having given several lectures at various American
the media. Warhol’s motto “Famous for 15 minutes”
colleges, he became bored and handed the job over
(thanks to the instant communications of our times)
to Allen Midgette, who passed himself off as Warhol.
has become reality for many.
The result, in both cases, was uproar! Warhol was 4 Marilyn 1964 Silkscreen on canvas 42 x 42 in
easy to impersonate, as he often hid behind dark glasses, under a white wig and had a very distinctive appearance with his big head and his pensive smile— even before he became fully established in New York, he had started dyeing his hair blond.
1 Andy Warhol 1978 Photograph by Christoper Makos
Andy Warhol was the embodiment of the new kind of star. Creator, producer and actor in one, he enriched the world by providing us with an idol from the world of art.
Andy Warhol was the embodiment of the new
The idol appears unreal, an apparition made from
Only the screen granted her the status of goddess.
kind of star. Creator, producer and actor in one,
light and shade. The cult of the ‘star’ is not really
What films did for the Hollywood stars—from Mary
he enriched the world by providing us with an
meant for a human being of flesh and blood—his
Pickford (the first star who truly deserved the name)
idol from the world of art. A good businessman,
physical presence merely affords proof that this
through Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo, Marlene
he marketed his quality of elusiveness as well as
apparition does indeed exist. No one saw through the
Dietrich, Mae West, Bette Davis, Clark Gable and
marketing himself in his role as head of his studio
mechanism of the ‘star’ cult better than Andy Warhol
Humphrey Bogart to James Stewart, Ingrid Bergman,
of 18 employees (“the boys and girls”). It has been
himself, as is illustrated by his public appearances.
Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe—the tabloid
said of Andy Warhol that “art gained beauty primarily
With the trick of being physically present and at the
newspapers did for Andy Warhol by fictionalizing
through money.” A friend and sponsor of his early
same time in another world, he seemed to be a
reality. He took advantage of their romanticizing
days, Henry Geldzahler, praises the artist’s fascinating
physical apparition. For Henry Geldzahler the main
(which in the Sixties was all the rage), spread and to
combination of business and art. Sociologist and film
reason for Andy Warhol’s fabulous success lies in his
a certain extent created by the triumphant advance
maker Edgar Morin observed that we project any
ability. According to Geldzahler, thanks to Warhol’s
of television. The borders between reality and
number of needs and desires that cannot be fulfilled
appearance as a “dumb blond,” it was not long
imagination were slowly being eroded. The television
in real life into the exalted, mythical being (of the
before the public began to identify him with the
documentary—seemingly reality but able to create
star); he thus defines the most important socio-
Pop movement. And, as he put it, there have indeed
a fictional result—demonstrated its power for the
psychological requirement in the creation of the
been very few artists—Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali,
first when the Kennedy–Nixon debates were fought
20th century cult of the film star, pop star, etc.
Jackson Pollock—in this century who have come to
out in front of the cameras. Even though the actual
be recognized by the man on the street in America.
impact of this historic media event on the outcome
Marilyn Monroe, Warhol’s favorite model, was also
of the American presidential elections is still disputed,
a different kind of “dumb blonde.” But in contrast
television has, ever since, played a ruling part in
to her portraitist she was always flesh and blood,
election campaigns all over the world. In the United
even though only a comparatively small number
States, in particular, a political candidate has to be
of people actually saw her in person.
‘telegenic’ to have any chance of success.
Cambellâ€™s Soup Can I 1968 Acrylic and liquitex, silkscreen on canvas 36 x 24 in
1 1 Triple Elvis 1962 Silkscreen on canvas 82 x 42 in 2 Sixteen Jackies 1964 Acrylic and silkscreen on canvas 80 x 64 in
For all their differences these stars have one thing in common: They are the personification of the American success story.
Andy Warhol had chosen Marilyn Monroe as his
Elvis Presley and Elizabeth Taylor were two other
model after her death; death had set the seal on
idols captured by Andy Warhol’s art in numerous
her supernatural existence. Apart from Humphrey
pictures and picture series, even if not to the same
Bogart he appeared to be the only film star whose
extent as Marilyn Monroe. For all their differences
posthumous fame exceeded by far her popularity in
these stars have one thing in common: they are
her own lifetime. Andy Warhol certainly contributed
the personification of the American success story.
his part to this. What actually drew his attention
Norma Jean Baker, alias Marilyn Monroe, went
to the screen sex bomb (at that time the throne
from mistreated child—if one wants to believe the
of sex-goddess was still reserved for Rita Hayworth
legend—to celebrated sex symbol. Elvis Presley
and was only awarded to Marilyn Monroe long after
went from singing truck driver to become the
her death) is hard to determine. With hindsight, this
celebrated idol of a whole generation, and Elizabeth
decision illustrates Andy Warhol’s infallible ability to
Taylor, who started as a child film actress, one of
nose out trends. Surely, it was not just the actress’s
Hollywood’s most highly paid stars. They were all, too,
sex appeal which was the deciding factor. Was it
surrounded by a hint of tragedy—Marilyn Monroe
possibly the legend that had been woven around
tried, desperately and in vain, to rid herself of the
her? Film historian Enno Palatas wrote that Marilyn
stereotype image of the dumb blonde sex symbol;
Monroe had fashioned a legend about her youth
Elvis Presley frequently fell into fits of depression; and
to suit her tastes, claiming that her parents used to
Liz Taylor constantly struggled with health problems.
beat her with a leather strap, that she was raped by a “friend” of the family when she was six years old, and then was juggled back and forth by unloving stepparents; and although journalist Ezra Goodman was later able to disprove this story, it fitted so well with her image that people still liked to believe it.
1 Flowers 1964 Silkscreen on canvas 48 x 48 in
Andy Warhol wanted to be one of its High Priests. He himself determinedly created his own legend.
2 Do It Yourself (Seascape) 1962 Acrylic on canvas 54 x 72 in
It is not the least surprising that Andy Warhol
After his father’s death the Warhola family made
consequences of the Depression. The advance of the
identified, in part, with these stars. The cult of
a bare living on the edge of absolute poverty. During
Nazis through Europe and the crushing Japanese
success is the bond that unites the whole country of
school holidays Andrew sold fruit and helped out
attack on the American Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor
the United States of America. Andy Warhol wanted
as a window-dresser. A photograph taken in 1941
now forced the United States into a world war which
to be one of its High Priests. He himself determinedly
shows him as an introverted, slightly dreamy-looking
also demanded its victims among civilians.
created his own legend. He once spread a story that
pretty blond boy.
his father had been killed in a mine. In this context he even travelled to Pittsburgh, capital of the North American coal and steel region, near where he was
In the department store where he worked during his “ I had had three nervous breakdowns when I was a child, spaced a year apart. One when I was eight, one
summer holidays Warhol came into contact for the first time with the world which was later to become
born. A famous film documents this gloomy, dirty
at nine, and one at ten. The attacks always started on
his own specific world—the world of consumer
and violent region: Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter.
the first day of summer vacation. I don’t know what
advertising. As the son of European immigrants, with
this meant. I would spend all summer listening to the
a mother who never mastered the English language,
radio and lying in bed with my Charlie McCarthy doll
his early years were filled with his family’s stories—
steel industry was as inauthentic as Andy Warhol’s
and my un-cut-out cut-out paper dolls all over the
memories of the Old Country. Later on as a student
make-believe. Warhol’s father did indeed work in
spread and under the pillow. My father was away a
in America he was to wander through the Czech
The picture it created of the heart of the American
a mine, but in the coal mines of West Virginia, which
lot on business trips to the coal mines, so I never saw
“ghetto with the babushkas and overalls on the
gave him little time at home. Andy and his brothers
him very much. My mother would read to me in her
clotheslines.” These years were to give him a
grew up under the care of their mother. In 1942 his
thick Czechoslovakian accent as best she could and I
thorough understanding of the true nature of
father died, but after a long illness resulting from
would always say “Thanks, Mom,” after she finished
America. Here at the department store he was
drinking poisoned water. Warhol’s parents had
with Dick Tracy, even if I hadn’t understood a word.
surrounded by a glamorous world which was
originally emigrated from Czechoslovakia to the
She’d give me a Hershey Bar every time I finished a
completely out of his reach. “I had a job one summer
United States, his father in 1909—some say 1912—
page in my coloring book.” The stuff of which
in a department store looking through Vogues and
to evade military service in his homeland and his
legends are made. At that time the United States was
Harper’s Bazaars and European fashion magazines
mother following nine years later.
still in the process of recovering from the far-reaching
for a wonderful man named Mr. Vollmer.
1 Dollar Signs 1981 Acrylic and silkscreen on canvas 90 x 70 in
Philip Pearlstein remembers Andy Warhol’s interest in dance, and in artists such as the American dancer 1
José Limón, who was a kind of hero in the cultural scene back then.
2 Dollar Signs 1981 Acrylic and silkscreen on canvas 90 x 70 in
I got something like fifty cents an hour and my job was to look for ‘ideas.’ I don’t remember ever finding
Robert Lepper, who, according to Pearlstein, was “the only really good teacher” at the Carnegie
one or getting one. Mr. Vollmer was an idol to me
Institute recalls that Warhol was a skinny little boy
because he came from New York and that seemed so
whom he did not know particularly well; but he said
exciting. I wasn’t really thinking about ever going
Warhol did his work and some of it really was very
there myself, though.” When he finally moved
good. Though Pittsburgh was provincial it enjoyed
to New York it was Carmel Snow, legendary editor
a lively political and cultural scene. Philip Pearlstein
of Harper’s Bazaar, who helped him most when he
remembers Andy Warhol’s interest in dance, and
first arrived. While studying at the Carnegie Institute
in artists such as the American dancer José Limón,
of Technology in Pittsburgh, he met Philip Pearlstein,
who was a kind of hero in the cultural scene back
a well-known American painter of nudes, and spent
then; Pearlstein remembers that he and Warhol
a lot of time with him. His teachers do not remember
always went to his performances. He also remembers
anything remarkable about the young student.
Martha Graham’s troupe, and her special technique. He thought that in some ways Martha Graham was like Bertolt Brecht; they had heard of Brecht’s theory and technique of epic theatre and of the alienation effect. Warhol finished his studies with a B.A. in Fine Arts and soon after left Pittsburgh. His student years were over.
His move to New York marked the beginning of his
Though he observed this life from a distance, he
years of travelling. He shared a studio with Pearlstein
saw it with the eye of a stranger who notices things
at St. Mark’s Place on the Lower East Side, home
which the New Yorker takes for granted. He first
of many of the has-beens of the New York literature
started working as a professional graphic designer,
and music scenes (later, in the Eighties, to become
creating advertisements for fashion magazines like
the home of Graffiti). “When I was eighteen a friend
Glamour, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar and this was
stuffed me into a Kroger’s shopping bag and took
when he changed his name to Andy Warhol. Several
me to New York,” was Warhol’s laconic comment
times he changed apartments and studios looking for
on this decisive step (according to Rainer Crone, he
friends. “I kept living with roommates thinking we
was 21 at the time). For Europeans, New York—the
could become good friends and share problems,
noisy metropolis with its electrifying atmosphere
but I’d always find out that they were just interested
and hectic lifestyle—is synonymous with America.
in another person sharing the rent.” His success
Although Eugene Rosenstock-Huesy, philosopher and
came relatively quickly and the “American Dream”
sociologist sneeringly remarks that few Americans
of unstoppable success came true faster than
would be interested if it were destroyed by an atom
he had expected.
bomb, for Warhol, son of immigrants from central Europe, New York became the apotheosis of all his desires: Fifth Avenue with its elegant shops, Madison Avenue, center of advertising and the El Dorado of the commercial arts, Park Avenue with its exclusive apartment blocks.
1 Moonwalk, II.404, 1987 Silkscreen on Paper 38 x 38 in 2 Moonwalk, II.405, 1987 Silkscreen on Paper 38 x 38 in 3 Truck, II.370 1985 Silkscreen on Paper 39 x 39in 4 Truck, II.369 1985 Silkscreen on Paper 39 x 39in
His success came relatively quickly and the â€œAmerican Dreamâ€? of unstoppable success came true faster than he had expected.
Andy Warhol himself was the original source
Cow Wallpaper 1966 Silkscreen on paper 44 x 30 in
of the tales that surrounded him and for a very good reason: You can only become a star if everybody is talking about you.
The story of his rise to fame is dotted with anecdotes.
He even devoted one set to Margaret Truman, pianist
According to Rainer Crone, any traces of the real
Calvin Tomkins, art critic, tells us how Tina Fredricks,
daughter of President Truman. Sometimes part of
Warhol—the artist—are lost in a jungle of anecdotes
then art director of Glamour, contributed to them.
a leg could be seen in a shoe, as in the Mae West
and tales. Art critics consciously wove a mystery
She was thrilled by Andy’s drawings but could not
series, but in general these gold-plated profiles of
around his life and work and reduced his personality
find a commercial use for them. She told him that
footwear, intended to represent the stars themselves,
to useful proportions in order to play down the
the drawings were good, but that Glamour could
were unadorned by any unnecessary additions. The
uniqueness of his art. But Andy Warhol himself was
only use drawings of shoes at the moment. The next
Madison Avenue exhibition of 1956 displayed the
the original source of the tales that surrounded him—
day Warhol came back with 50 drawings of shoes
complete series of Golden Shoes—a rewarding field
and for a very good reason: you can only become a
in his brown paper bag. No one had ever drawn
for the attentions of any interested psychologist!
star if everybody is talking about you. Warhol never
One is taken aback by the fact that Warhol identifies
though he never said so—of being a star, according to Henry Geldzahler, his friend from early days.
lost sight of his actual goal: being an artist and—
shoes the way he did. Footwear was to be a recurring theme in his work
a product with a real person, a film star. His idea—
up to the early Sixties and many see this as the most
which never came to fruition—of selling film stars’
important era of his commercial phase. Tomkins
underwear washed at $5, unwashed more expensively,
praises the subtlety of these drawings which were
underlines his undisguised fetishism. But his gentle
done in the style of Toulouse-Lautrec and admires
approach through his drawings to the magic world
their empirical exactness. “Each buckle was in the
of the ‘stars’ is more remarkable even than the
right place.” His creative series, Golden Shoes,
underlying sexual tension of this series of pictures.
each devoted to film stars such as Mae West, Judy Garland, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Julie Andrews, James Dean and Elvis Presley, to authors such as Truman Capote and to the transvestite Christine Morgan, were received with approval.
Interviews, Statements, and Writings
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Kent, Lericia. “Andy Warhol: Movieman ‘It’s Hard to Be Your Own Script.’” Vogue 155 (March 1970): 167, 204. Interview.
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