The Real Andy Warhol
“If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface of my paintings and films and me, and there I am. There’s nothing behind it.” – Andy Warhol
Well, there you have it from the lips of the master himself. Of course, the real Warhol is a hard man to find. Perhaps his chief life’s work was not so much screenprints or films, but the creation of a superficial public persona.
As he stated himself, he wished to develop a “machinic celebrity…the perfect artificial personality” which should be “a kind of hologram”.
If you’d like a taste—or a feast—of his physical work, you can check out the Hamilton Selway portfolio here. We’ve got a smorgasbord ranging from understated black-and-white self portraits to Day-Glo-bright screenprints of the Moonwalk to esoteric works printed on silk scarves.
Or if you’d like to check out more Andy Warhol quotes, you can get your hair blown back here.
Early Life as Andrew Warhola
The seeds of what we will do are buried in us from the beginning. This maxim holds true for little Andrew Warhola, born during the last gasp of the Roaring 20’s to Czechoslovakian immigrant parents. They lived in a blue-collar neighborhood of Pittsburgh.
Now the City of Bridges is home to the Andy Warhol Museum, a seven-story shrine to the life and works of the father of Pop Art.
During his childhood, Andy was often holed up in his bedroom. He suffered from a nervous system disorder called St. Vitus’ Dance. He also suffered from three nervous breakdowns as a boy, paralyzed by social anxiety.
Perhaps it comes as no surprise, then, that he retreated to his sanctuary and surrounded himself with celebrities and other social elites.
He was attracted to the kind of people you might expect to find in the Hollywood limelight, the upper echelons of Manhattan, or a Gatsby party come to life. Starstruck, he hung pictures of famous actors and listened to illustrious personalities gab on the radio.
Andy’s mother was a casual artist and encouraged his creative flair by purchasing him a camera when he was 9 years old. As a teenager, his father passed away.
The Warhola family had enough money to send only one child to university. They chose Andy for the privilege. He would spend the rest of his life proving the wisdom of their decision.
The King of Pop Art was known for a thousand and one wonderful quirks and habits. Here’s a roundup of some highlights:
- Obsessed with recording all his conversations, he carried around a tape recorder everywhere. He lovingly called the machine his “wife.”
- He was a practicing Ruthenian Catholic: he wore a crucifix, carried a rosary, and spent time ladling out food at a religious soup-kitchen.
- Warhol was something of a world traveler. On one trip, he went to Egypt, India, Japan, and Italy. Around the World in Andy Days, anyone? Should we play Where’s Warhol?
- Speaking to the heart of Millenials, Andy had a love for doggos (canines). His pet dachshund was named, “Archie”.
What About Andy Warhol’s Wig?
“Andy Warhol’s wig depended on him. Abandoned in the vitrine, the prosthesis looks like a flattened jellyfish, a splayed broom, an apology.” ~ Wayne Koestenbaum for Artforum 1998.
Andy Warhol’s wig is almost as famous as the man himself. In reality, the pop art star owned over 40 wigs. They were made by a New York City wig maker from hair imported from Italy.
In true Warhol style, the artist used a personal insecurity–in this case, his premature balding–and transformed it into a statement, a brand, a madcap icon. When he originally began wearing wigs in the 1950s, he used a tawny brown color. Slowly he progressed through lighter and lighter shades until he landed on his famous silver piece.
The strategy was fair enough–if you always look like your in the twilight of life, nobody really knows how old you are. Not only did they hide his age, but they proved valuable collector’s items. One sold at auction for over $10,000.
To top it off, Andy was fierce about his wigs. During a book signing, a girl once grabbed Warhol’s piece right off his head. He later wrote in his diary,
“I don’t know what held me back from pushing her over the balcony.”
Was Andy Warhol Gay?
Yes, Andy Warhol was homosexual. He also reported that he was a virgin in 1980 at the age of 52. This would indicate that within his queer sexuality, he also identified as celibate or asexual.
However, there is evidence to the contrary. A doctor’s report in 1960 diagnosed him with a sexually transmitted disease called condylomata. Some people close to Andy have also reported that they had sexual relationships with him.
Some of his lovers have speculated that his insistence on being a virgin was an attempt to create a blank image of himself, thereby protecting his vulnerabilities. If so, this idea dovetails with his intention of creating a holographic personality. But there is no doubt that Andy Warhol was gay.
The Photography of Andy Warhol
Two of Warhol’s most famous subjects were Mick Jagger and Jean Michel-Basquiat, a well-known American artist of Haitian and Puerto Rican descent. These series are striking in their focus of unusual vantage points and often overlooked subjects, like the feet and thighs.
He often worked with Polaroids and black-and-white film. He documented happenings such as the annual Gay Pride Parade in NYC, as well as extremely ordinary subjects like urinals.
Andy Warhol photography was predominately portraits. Other subjects included David Hockney, Paloma Picasso, Liza Minelli, Yves St Laurent, and of course, himself.
“Everybody looks alike and acts alike, and we’re getting more and more that way.”
Andy Warhol stated this as an explanation of a photography exhibition in London. Often his Polaroids captured this absence of individuality. They framed the monotony that Warhol saw spread out before him everywhere he went.
Andy Warhol Paintings & Screen Prints
You can learn all about Warhol’s screenprinting process, including a video of the master at work, in our article Andy Warhol’s Screenprinting Process.
Two of his most famous paintings are his Flowers series and his Mao series.
Andy Warhol’s Flowers
The Andy Warhol painting Flowers debuted in 1964. Initially, he painted them on 24×24 inch and 48×48 inch canvases. The inspiration came not from flowers in nature but from an issue of Modern Photography.
Andy Warhol’s Mao
Andy Warhol’s Mao debuted in 1973. The series used synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen ink on large canvases, stretching 176 1/2 x 136 1/2 inches. The meaning of the Andy Warhol Mao series was an extension of his dedication to all things famous, no matter the stigma.
Andy Warhol’s Signature
Also of widespread interest is Andy Warhol’s signature. Because he achieved such fantastic fame while alive, he often signed memorabilia and everyday objects (for example, the signed dollar bill below is worth much more than $1).
His signature is also relevant for determining the authenticity of his works. Naturally he was exceptionally prolific. His work is also easier to reproduce than some other artists. And of course, his work is extremely valuable. Accordingly, many people have tried to fake his works.
Other Warhol Projects
Andy Warhol had more projects than he could keep track of. Here’s the short list of other mediums he used:
- Warhol wrote a book called a: A Novel, It has been described as, “Conceptually unique, hilarious, and frightening; the perfect literary manifestation of Andy Warhol’s sensibility.”
- He created a cookbook with Suzie Frankfurt called Wild Raspberries. While we’re on the subject, Salvador Dali also created a cookbook, called Le Diners de Gala.
- Warhol produced an album which became known as the most prophetic rock album of all time. Rolling Stone rated as #13 in the best rock albums.
- In ’66 and ’67, Warhol organized events called “The Exploding Plastic Inevitable”. They were interdisciplinary events featuring art, performance, music, and film.
- Warhol also paired up with Converse to create his own brand of the classic shoe.
For a similarly-themed work, you can check out Warhol’s Diamond Dust Shoes, a 1980 screenprint that used crushed glass in a technique called diamond dusting.
Andy Warhol Death
Andy Warhol died on February 22, 1987 at the New York Hospital. He had made a steady recovery from gallbladder surgery. However, he abruptly died in his sleep from an irregular heartbeat following the operation.
One of our own, David Galgano, Director at Hamilton Selway, tells his story of the day Andy died:
“At this point in my life I’m working at a gallery in SoHo, in New York. And it was Sunday morning, February 22, 1987. I remember waking up, getting dressed for work, and walking across the Bowery, down West Broadway to Spring Street, where the gallery was. Ahead of me I noticed there were at least 40 people in line, waiting for the gallery to open, which kind of frightened me.
People kept asking me, “What time are you open? What time are you open?” I said, “Just wait a second, I have to hit the alarm.” And I remember unlocking the double lock on the door, then locking myself back in. The phones were ringing off the hook. So I turned off the alarm and picked up the phone. And my boss, who was driving across the bridge, said, “Andy Warhol died. Don’t sell anything until I get there.” In the meantime I have this crowd outside, not beating on the door, but very anxious.
We sold 98 Warhols in one day. It was very emotional, I remember going in the bathroom several times crying that day because of the way the public treated it. They didn’t care about Mick Jagger, but they wanted a piece of Andy. They didn’t care about the subject matter. There was no emotion. It was just to get a piece of the action. And that was pretty devastating.”
Despite the heartbreaks of that day, Andy Warhol continues to echo through our world like no other artist in history. Warhol ranks as the top artist of all time in terms of revenue generated in the Post-War and Contemporary genre. His sales total $4.96 billion.
Andy Warhol Net Worth
Andy Warhol’s net worth at his death was between $220 and $228 million. That was in 1987. When adjusted for inflation, that would be over half a billion dollars in 2019.
His estate contained tens of thousands of works. Many of these were his own, but he also had an extensive art collection comprised of other artist’s work.
Some of his estate was given away, including about 4000 works for the creation of the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. Twenty-five years after his death, another 20,000 works were sold off at auction by Christie’s.
Naturally those works are continuing to increase in value. One collector, Jose Mugrabi, has a collection of just under 1000 Warhols. They comprise one third of his total art collection, which is valued at $770 million.
Trivia About the Artist Sometimes Known as Drella
How did Andy Warhol earn the nickname “Drella”?
More of a self-proclaimed nickname, “Drella” is a combination of “Dracula” and Cinderella”. Though he was shy and withdrawn by day, Andy came to life at night like both of the fairy tale characters.
Andy Warhol produced an album for which band?
The Velvet Underground, duh. Read all about it here, since apparently you’ve been living under a rock your whole life.
Andy Warhol played himself on the 200th episode of what Aaron Spelling series?
The Love Boat. Aired on November 3, 1984, the episode is called “Aerobic April / The Wager / Story of the Century”. Seriously awesome.
How much are Andy Warhol paintings worth?
At $105.4 million (yes, you read that correctly), Silver Car Crash [Double Disaster] sold for even more than the Turquoise Marilyn, which sold for $80 million.
Where is Andy Warhol buried?
Andy Warhol is buried in his home state of Pennsylvania at the St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cemetery near the towns of Bethel Park and Castle Shannon.
Recommended Articles on Similar Artists
Still here? We understand–we can’t get enough of Andy either. Here’s a video of him eating a hamburger.