Catty? Yes. Self-serving? Certainly. Like so many other famous Leos (Lucille Ball, for instance, whom Warhol shares a birthday with), Andy Warhol was nothing if not subtly cutthroat and hopelessly selfish. Still, the innovation of his work—though many art critics and enthusiasts will deny it to their last breath—speaks to something that we had never allowed ourselves to acknowledge: Celebrity obsession. Granted, Warhol created other works not centered around celebrity culture (“Flowers,” “Cows,” etc.), but this was the crux of his artistic thesis.
Of course, reflecting society back to itself can get quite ugly at times—and many people abhorred Warhol as a result. His own personal stable of misfit superstars would even turn against him (his falling out with Edie Sedgwick being the most obvious example). And then there was the attempted murder by Valerie Solanas in 1968, so, clearly, Warhol’s messages and actions were not without their detractors. Nonetheless, below are Warhol’s five most memorable contributions to modern pop culture as we know it.
5) Before Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie in The Simple Life, there was Edie Sedgwick in Poor Little Rich Girl. Warhol’s portrayal of quintessential socialite problems would leave an indelible mark.
4) As one of the earliest users of the silkscreening medium, Warhol showed us the powerful effect of repetition–a skill he undoubtedly fine-tuned during his years in advertising.
3) In 1975, Warhol’s philosophy was crystallized with The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, in which the oft misquoted phrase, “In the future everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes,” was coined.
2) Though largely regarded as a marketing scheme for both parties (which it probably was, but art has to sell somehow, you know?), the collaborations Warhol created with Jean-Michel Basquiat would set a precedent for big names in pop culture to work together in the future.
1) The cult of celebrity may always be viewed as void of meaning–utterly vacuous–but when Warhol established Interview Magazine in 1969, he was proving to the world that there is more to fame than simply an image.