Presented as part of our American Dream-themed content.
Pop art pioneer Andy Warhol celebrated America through its consumerism and celebrity culture. His Factory collective challenged artistic and sexual boundaries, and defined New York opulence in the ’60s and ’70s.
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In his Time Capsules project, Warhol filled cardboard boxes with random ephemera, including photographs, letters, newspaper clippings and tickets stubs. When full he’d tape them up and put them in storage. Opened upon his death, they now represent one of his most personal artworks, currently on display at the Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh.
In 1984 Warhol co-directed a music video for The Cars’ single ‘Hello Again’ featuring fashion designer Dianne Brill, the actress Gina Gershon and himself in a cameo as a bartender. It perfectly captures the ’80s New York club scene, but Warhol was painfully embarrassed doing it, according to his diaries.
Andy Warhol’s TV was a cable television series that ran for 27 episodes, featuring a dazzling who’s who of guests from the art, music and fashion worlds. Andy’s unconventional interview technique made for uncomfortable but amusing viewing. It was the precursor for Andy Warhol’s 15 Minutes, a show that ran on MTV from 1985-’87.
An obsession with taxidermy caused Andy to purchase a stuffed Great Dane by the name of Cecil – one that he wrongly believed to have been owned by legendary filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille. This dog stood at the front door of The Factory in New York for 17 years. He was the inspiration for several artworks from the Canis Major series.
His widowed mother, originally from Slovakia, moved to New York in 1921 and lived with Warhol until her death; he was by his own admission a mummy’s boy. Also artistic, she painted, embroidered, and her decorative handwriting was used extensively in Warhol’s prints.
Warhol published a cookbook with socialite Suzie Frankfurt called Wild Raspberries, a playful pun on the film Wild Strawberries by director Ingmar Bergman. It contained fanciful recipes with colourful illustrations hand-lettered by his mother, a highlight being Omelet Greta Garbo, which should always be “eaten alone”.
Thirteen Most Wanted Men was a large mural created by Warhol for the 1964 World’s Fair, depicting 22 mug shots of wanted men (in a nod to Marcel Duchamp). It was painted over before opening due to objections. Later it was suggested that it was actually a combination of Warhol’s dissatisfaction and concern that one of the men featured had subsequently been pardoned.
David Bowie wrote the song ‘Andy Warhol’ as a tribute to the artist, but Warhol seemingly loathed it and thought it made fun of his appearance. However, the pair did later bond over a love of shoes, and Bowie even went on to play Warhol in 1996 movie Basquiat.
Lou Reed claimed the advantage of having Warhol as the co-producer on the first Velvet Underground album was that he allowed the band total artistic freedom to leave everything in its original, pristine state, never commenting beyond, “That’s great.”
In 1969 he founded Interview magazine, or as it was known in certain circles, The Crystal Ball Of Pop. It featured peculiar yet intimate conversations with many big name celebrities, artists and musicians, and retains a strong online presence.
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This article originally appears in issue 96 of Clash magazine, the American Dream Issue – details and purchase links.
Words: Anna Wilson
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