World-famous Andy Warhol, excentric, controversial and at the time scandalous, American artist, one of the central figures of the Pop Art movement, created an eclectic range of art works, some of which are not known to the same extent as his paintings of Monroe, Mao or Campbell Soup Cans. Warhol referred to Pop Art as "common art", based on common objects, consumerism and mass popularity. He is quoted as saying, that he'd 'prefer to remain a mystery'.* Born as Andrew Warhola in 1927 or 1928 as youngest of three brothers from immigrants of Rusyn origin in Miková, now in Slovakia, the young Warhol showed an early artistic talent, foremost in drawing, and a liking in the collection of pictures of movie stars. With the aim of working as a commercial artist he studied pictorial design in Pittsburgh. A quote from their "Notable Alumni" page shows how they see their former scholar: "With his paintings of soup cans, silk screens, ... he changed the very definition of what art should be."
Commercial Artist - Illustrator
Andy Warhol started out with commercial art: he established a successful career in advertising in the 1950ies, winning design awards, and also worked as magazine illustrator in New York City. His illustrations were printed in Vogue, The New Yorker and other magazines. He drew Christmas cards, worked on book and album covers and designed window displays. His drawings were shown in department stores, and in 1952, his illustrations were exhibited in a gallery in New York. In 1957 the business-oriented designer and illustrator founded a design firm, Andy Warhol Enterprises, Inc.
It was also during these years in New York that Warhol began with his well-known paintings of everyday famous American products, like soup cans, his well-known large colorful portraits of celebrities, and that he founded "The Factory", his legendary studio. His first exhibition took place in Los Angeles in 1962, displaying Campbell's Soup Cans and print portraits of Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe among others. Later his paintings were shown in New York as well.
Warhol's Studio - The Factory
Though many of his later studios were also referred to as The Factory, the original Factory was this New York City studio from 1963 to 1968. It was to become the meeting and party place for poets, artists, musicians and actors, celebrities and his "art-workers" who helped him produce his paintings and starred in his films. Constantly driven by time, he sought ways to enhance the output of his creative work, "to mass-produce" his art depicting mass-produced items and consumer goods. At The Factory, Warhol and his helpers, who later became known as the "Warhol Superstars", fabricated the silkscreens, that were the basis of his silkscreen prints.
In addition to his paintings Warhol created films, art videos, sculptures, music-albums, and photographed. During his career his art evolved from commercial art in the beginning to commissioned art production later on.
Warhol liked taking photos. His numerous Polaroid photographs, of celebrities for instance, which he used for the silkscreens, actually originated when he started taking photos of the many visitors to his studio.
Film- and Art Video Creator
Warhol is seen as one of the first artists to create videos as art, but he also produced some commercial films which were quite successful. Themes he dealt with in his experimental films were for example boredom. Another film subject was homosexuality.
Music Album Producer
For about one and a half years from 1965 to 1967 Warhol was producer and manager of the rock group The Velvet Underground. During this period their album "The Velvet Underground and Nico", also referred to as the "The Banana Album", was recorded. Many of the controversial lyrics were written by Lou Reed. Some songs reflected the "Superstars" at The Factory. John Cale created much of the sound. The cover, a peelable banana and Andy Warhol's name, was designed by Warhol.
In 1969 Warhol started a magazine called "inter/VIEW, A Monthly Film Journal", which was designed as a film journal at first, and soon enabled him to meet famous celebrities such as actors, musicians and athletes whom he could film and take photos of. From 1972 to 1977 it was called "Andy Warhol's Interview" and later simply "Interview".
Many of Warhol's paintings were commissioned portraits. That is how his notion of business art evolved, and the reason he started referring to his studio as the "office" instead of The Factory.
• Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, New York
* in Mike Wrenn: "Andy Warhol: In his Own Words", 1991.
At a recent exhibition polaroids and early drawings of Andy Warhol were shown. "I met Andy Warhol personally one time," the gallery owner of Rhomberg Gallery said, who in a small alpine city since a few decades now has succeeded in organizing exhibitions with artworks of the artist, "in that club in New York, Studio 54, in 1986." When asked which impression he got of him, he answered: "There were so many people around, there was hardly any possibility of really getting to know him. From my point of view Andy was a neutral person."
He explains how was it possible to organize an Andy Warhol exhibition in such a small city: "It was in 1985 when a friend of mine and I decided to exhibit Andy Warhol. We were in Köln at the time." Through another person they were able to get artworks from the artist for their exhibition. Asked if the then already famous artist had also been present at the opening of the exhibition, he replied: "He wasn't at the opening. He had wanted a Concorde ticket and then a flight in a private jet".
He then continued: "In retrospect, we should have bought him the ticket and provided for the following flight. Even if we wouldn't have sold any artworks, because Andy would have been entirely in the focus of attention, it would have paid off through his autographs."
A polaroid by Andy Warhol: Roy Lichtenstein, 1975.
Polaroid The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, New York