Andy Warhol's Possession Obsession ; Andy Warhol - Artist, Collector of Oddities, and Symbol of All Things Pop - Still Fascinates Us

By Margolis, Lynne | The Christian Science Monitor, March 29, 2002 | Go to article overview

Andy Warhol's Possession Obsession ; Andy Warhol - Artist, Collector of Oddities, and Symbol of All Things Pop - Still Fascinates Us


Margolis, Lynne, The Christian Science Monitor


He died 15 years ago, but the man who promised everyone 15 minutes of fame is far from running down the clock on his own.

In fact, with an entire museum in Pittsburgh devoted to his work, plus exhibitions traveling worldwide, jaw-dropping sale prices for his artworks, and even an upcoming United States postage stamp, Andy Warhol - artist, collector, and the original king of all media, aka the "pope of pop" art and culture - is more famous than ever.

Two big Warhol events happened this month alone: The Andy Warhol Museum opened a major exhibition titled "Possession Obsession: Objects from Andy Warhol's Personal Collection." And Phaidon Press released the first hefty volume of a six-volume, $250-per-copy "Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonne" that scrutinizes his entire output (Vol. 1 covers only paintings and sculpture from 1961 to '63). Next month, the "Possession Obsession" exhibition book will be published.

London's Tate Modern museum is featuring a large Warhol retrospective that originated at the New National Gallery in Berlin. It will travel to the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art in May. Last year alone, the Warhol museum handled 39 traveling exhibitions and loans. And it has licensed numerous products like dishes, sheets, and wallpaper featuring the kitsch king's white-wigged image. The museum's own shop also offers hundreds of objects that celebrate his life and creativity. (The most popular item: a fridge magnet with his face and the words "Your 15 minutes are up.")

His art still sells for record amounts. Last June, Sotheby's auction house moved an acrylic and silkscreen print, "Little Electric Chair," for $2.3 million - four times its estimated value.

Bob Dylan must have kicked himself a few times over his decision in the '60s to trade Warhol's gift to him of a huge double Elvis image for a couch. At the time, of course, neither Dylan nor Warhol had an inkling that they'd both become enduring pop-culture icons.

The reason Warhol is still important, says Andy Warhol Museum director Tom Sokolowski, "is that he was a pretty good artist. But his greatness was in knowing which way the world was spinning and its trajectory.... He was an incredible barometer of where the world stood."

Adds Andy Warhol Foundation agent Vincent Fremont, "He was this visionary, the most intuitive person that I have ever made contact with.... He understood contemporary media. He saw the future, which a lot of people didn't...."

As a prognosticator of all things cultural - both pop and haute - Warhol was never wrong, Mr. Sokolowski claims. Reverberations from Warhol's work now permeate not only the art world, but advertising, publishing, and filmmaking as well. Half of the artists in the biennial exhibition now at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, one of the world's most prestigious modern art exhibitions, "would not be making the art they do if not for Andy," Mr. Sokolowski says. (For a review of the Whitney exhibition, see page 20.)

Sokolowski also claims that Warhol's celebrity-fixated Interview magazine, which kept stories short and emphasized photos (because Warhol himself was dyslexic) begat People and Us magazines, and even the newspaper USA Today.

Warhol also was involved with rock music (he sponsored the influential '60s New York band The Velvet Underground), and was a photographer, filmmaker, author, model, TV personality (on MTV's "Andy Warhol's 15 Minutes"), social magnet (at his famed studio The Factory), socialite (he was a Studio 54 regular), and cultural voyeur.

"He was intrigued with power, money; he was intrigued with people," Mr. Fremont of the Warhol foundation says. "He remains current. His images don't seem to date." Americans are still fascinated by the subjects of his portraits, which include Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Onassis, and Mick Jagger.

Warhol also understood consumerism, which his art appeared to reflect as both ironic and glorious - though Fremont points out that his art wasn't sarcastic, but "an appreciation of American culture.

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