Andy Warhol: From Outsider to Influencer

Andy Warhol is undoubtably one of the most renowned artists of the twentieth century and the main figure of the Pop Art movement in the sixties and seventies. His fascination with stardom and his close relationship with the advertising world, helped develop his oeuvre into the serialization of paintings and prints of everyday objects and pop culture characters. Though his first art exhibition was dedicated to the figure of Truman Capote, his rise to fame came in 1962 with the Campbell Soup Can and Marilyn Monroe series. 

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Mickey Mouse by Andy Warhol

As Warhol diffused the line between art and pop culture, his interest in pushing the boundaries of artistic expression lead him to create The Factory – a space for socialites, artists and avant-garde performances where he created films, embrace other creative artists and invited New York’s underground hip elite, making his fame even greater. Within the walls of The Factory he turned himself into an icon, surrounding himself with celebrities and endorsing artists and socialites like Edie Sedgwick, whom he turned into one of the most import It Girls of the New York fashion scene. Even after closing The Factory he maintained his status as tastemaker through the connections he made at Studio 54. During this era, it was said that “you knew you were at a good party if Warhol showed up”. 

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Jackie Kennedy II by Andy Warhol

By surrounding himself with the right people he became one of them, consciously and purposefully establishing himself as a pop culture icon, becoming as much a part of his art as the works he created, not dissimilar to what influencers are doing today through content creation on social media. This resulted in the creation of a persona that, from his blonde hair and dark glasses to his instantly recognizable art, is indelibly printed onto each of our minds. 

Andy Warhol Self Portrait Screen Print

Andy Warhol Self Portrait Screen Print

 

He foreshadowed social media and the way we interact with images today through the serialization and beatification of celebrity. Once quoted as saying “It’s not what you are that counts, and it’s what they think you are”, Warhol understood the media’s cult of personality, and he capitalized on it through his incredible ability to attract attention, or by being, in all the right places at all the right times and with all the right people at all the right times. 

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Lifesavers Ad by Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol deeply impacted the course of art history, he brought the concept of consumerism to the foreground and further popularized the use of art as a reflection of society, but also as social commentary. Warhol shows us the darker side of the post-war economic boom and allows viewers to question values, high art, and beauty. It’s hard to separate how deeply insightful Warhol was about how we think about art, brands, and fame from the influence he had on shaping those conceptions. His stated desire to be more like a machine, his creation of instant superstars, and his relentless cataloging of every object and moment of his life all seem much more in tune with our current reality Instagram than his own times. Was Warhol a reflection of the desires that have led us to this or a force pushing us in this direction?

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