Quite possibly the most influential artist since Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol revolutionized modern art, radically altering the relationship of art to notions of authorship and commodity, and blurring the boundaries between performance, photography, painting, and sculpture. Warhol’s innovations, which have now become familiar artistic techniques, confounded traditional notions of what an artist did (Warhol outsourced much of his work to assistants) and what artistic subject matter could be. Using reproductions of common, commercially available images from advertising and the celebrity press, Warhol presented art as one commodity among many, an act filled with equal parts indifferent boredom, ingenious marketing, and celebration. He was lauded as a mirror of contemporary American culture, in which, he predicted, everyone would experience (or want to experience), “15 minutes of fame,” to use a phrase he coined.
Much of Warhol’s oeuvre is well known, recognizable. Beginning in the 1950s, Warhol began to experiment with presenting mass-produced advertising images as artwork. His Campbell’s Soup cans and images of flowers, portraits of Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, and Elizabeth Taylor, and his Brillo boxes have become as iconic as the images from which they derive and seem saturated with his critical banality. Less known, perhaps, are much darker images by Warhol: horrific car crashes, erotic male nudes, collaborations with Keith Haring or Jean-Michel Basquiat, portraits of Vladimir Lenin, and so on.
Warhol remains one of the most influential artists of the 20th and 21st centuries.