One of the frequent requests we get from art collectors at our Fine Art Brokerage is to find a painting or screen print by Andy Warhol. These requests come in regularly and almost always the request is for different subject matters depending on what is “on trend” and sometimes even what is “off trend”. Whether it is for a classic iconic piece of Pop Art such as a Campbell’s Soup Can, a Marilyn Monroe, a work from the Skulls or Electric Chairs series or a Flowers or a Society portrait, come rain or shine the one Blue Chip Artist that is always on trend is Warhol.
Why is this artist so relentlessly popular? Here are 6 reasons why we think he is the King of Blue Chip:
1 Warhol has wide appeal across the entire arts community.
Warhol was at the forefront of the Pop Art movement, redefining the artistic landscape by dislodging the Abstract Expressionist movement as the most prominent and significant artistic style in the US in the 1960s. His unique style and artistic language has remained relevant over many decades of the twentieth century, inspiring the next generation of brilliant artistic talent across many different media from writing, painting, photography, film to performance art and music.
Warhol embodied the multi-talented artist that we now see today, a modern day Renaissance man who could work across a variety of media and he continues to have a profound and considerable influence on Contemporary Art today. He was the twentieth century’s answer to Picasso and changed the language of art and the rules. Is it any wonder that top young talent of the 1980s Jean-Michel Basquiat, Francesco Clemente and Keith Haring wanted to work collaboratively with him?
2 Warhol was a pioneer in techniques and in the business of art.
Art was money and art was business like never before. Through his technique of photography and use of screen printing, he revolutionised the creative process of art and was able to normalise its mass production. Throughout his career he made original works but he also created hundreds of works that were editions. His workshop, known as “The Factory”, was unashamedly into using printing techniques and many assistants in the production process.
Warhol wanted “to be a machine” to become a mass production line and in realising this ambition he created an extraordinarily successful business model and arguably paved the way for the great artists of today who use numerous assistants in their production teams, such as Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami and Damien Hirst.
3 Warhol was a social documenter.
From the zeitgeist to the uncannily prophetic, Warhol tapped into critical moments in recent political times that continue to have relevance today. He selected and created iconic images, ones that seemed to perfectly reflect American society and have a deep resonance in America’s pysche.
By immediately tapping into the immense success of advertising campaigns for consumer goods of the 1940s and 1950s and recreating with incredible simplicity and perfect accuracy the powerful design work of major brands, he turned ordinary mundane products into works of art, such as his Campbell Soup Cans series, his Coca Cola bottles and his amazing Brillo Box sculptures.
Warhol also captured the extraordinary tragedies that troubled the mass conscience and upset the balance of the norm, such as the suicide of Marilyn Monroe and the deaths of Elvis Presley and John F Kennedy. Death and suicide were thoughts and themes that haunted Warhol’s work and arguably inspired his best and most sought after work. These themes add a special complexity and a side to his work that contrast significantly to the brash dollar signs and joy filled Flowers and Toys series.
Through the use of great photography, strong pop colours and accentuating the most prominent facial features Warhol developed a formula for creating extraordinarily powerful images of the rich and famous. He created a legends’ “who’s who”, from political giants such as Chairman Mao, Lenin and Che Guevara, to the superstars of the day in film, music and sport.
The media of screen print was perfect for commoditising these icons, as if they were part of large advertising campaigns. His creation of icons by using his mass production factory style spoke to America about their fears, their dreams and their complicated history. Deeply aware of his impact as a social documenter, Warhol also created his time capsules which included hundreds of works of art.
4 Warhol was a Gay Rights Activist well ahead of his time.
From the 1950s onwards, at a time where broadcasting your sexual orientation was definitely not acceptable and certain sexual acts were illegal in every State across America, Warhol was very busy creating art that openly normalised gay relationships. He did this again across different media through art and film. In one of his film’s entitled “Sleep”(1964) he captures for over 5 hours his lover John Giorno sleeping.
While other prominent artists such as Jasper Johns and Rauschenberg kept their sexuality low key, Warhol was determined to break down the barriers. He wanted to use film as a way of educating the masses that being gay was no different to being heterosexual and some argue Warhol decided to move from being a successful commercial illustrator to being a painter to redress the balance of famous heterosexual artists with more successful gay artists.
5 Warhol was the celebrity who had more than 15 minutes of fame.
From humble beginnings coming from a poor immigrant family from Pittsburgh, from a very young age Warhol was fascinated by Hollywood and would collect the autographs of the famous stars. Was it any wonder that with his drive, passion and self-belief he would create his own celebrity cult status where his studio would one day became the mecca for great talented young artists, sophisticated art collectors and celebrities.
His private commission work led Warhol to producing many society portraits of the great and good in America, from Hollywood actors such as Elizabeth Taylor, Ingrid Bergman, Judy Garland and Lisa Minelli to famous musicians such as John Lennon and Mick Jagger and sporting legends such as Mohammad Ali. His commissions brought Warhol ever closer to the stars he so greatly admired and respected.
However, such is his extraordinary personality that his self-portraits are some of the most fascinating works he produced. Immortalised in his silver fright wig, his ghost like face emerging from his black garb and his uncanny fixed stare towards the camera, his portraits take on an iconic feel of their own, particularly as they were produced not long before his own death.
6 “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.“
So, if we look again and all we see are consumerist products, celebrities and dollar signs, we may be missing something more fundamental. Underneath it all Warhol, kept very private the fact that he was a religious man. Raised in a devout Byzantine Catholic family, Warhol would return to regularly attending mass later in life. His later series of works turned to religious subjects and one of his largest projects was his one hundred works depicting Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper.
He also painted religious imagery such as Raphael’s Madonna and Saint Apollonia based on a painting by Piero della Francesca. Christian motifs regularly appear throughout the body of his work and underscore the fact that Warhol was a man with profound beliefs and at the heart of it all, a man with deep convictions.
A recent exhibition called Andy Warhol: Revelation at The Warhol Museum is the first in-depth exhibition to explore the impact his catholic faith had on his artistic career. Maybe after all one does need to dig deeper than the surface of his paintings to truly understand this genius.
At Vitruvian Arts we help art collectors buy and sell works by Andy Warhol and works by other Blue Chip artists. To find out more about our service and for a free consultation please do contact us here: