The Guillotine: Twentieth-Century Classics That Won't Last No 34: Andy Warhol

Article excerpt

Tamara de Lempicka was born in Poland at the turn of the century, was married in St Petersburg in 1916, fled the Bolshevik revolution the following year and eventually fetched up, like many of her affluent Bohemian caste, in Paris. There she devoted herself to painting, in a glamorously metallic, naggingly memorable style, the city's literati, glitterati and twitterati. Described by one critic as "the perverse Ingres of the Machine Age", she was rewarded with fame, acclaim, a vast personal fortune and, 30 years later, almost total neglect - followed, in the 1980s and 1990s, by a belatedly revived interest in her as a petit-maitre (or petite-maitresse?) of art deco.

Tamara de Who? What, you're probably wondering, does she have to do with Andy Warhol? Only that hers is a cautionary tale for all artists who, scornful of culture's so-called eternal verities, claiming (or feigning) indifference to the judgment of posterity, remain feverishly in thrall to the passing fads and fancies of their period.

This is surely true of Warhol. For all the post-modern conceptualism of his work, for all that his indefatigably replicated Maos and Marilyns obliged us to reconsider the traditional values, codes and practices of the art world, his imagery is meaningless when detached from its glitzy socio-cultural context. …