One of the most influential and important artists of the 20th Century, Andy Warhol was the leading protagonist of Pop art. Recognized across the globe, his work embraces consumer culture, media, and celebrity.
Born Andrew Warhola in 1928 in Pittsburgh to Slovakian immigrants, Warhol studied at the Carnegie Institute of Technology between 1945 and 1949. On graduating, he moved to New York City, where he changed his last name to Warhol and worked as a commercial illustrator for magazines, as well as designing advertising and window displays for department stores.
In the early 1950s, he embarked upon a career as an artist. Captivated by contemporary American culture, and already immersed in the world of advertising, Warhol turned to popular, often banal and ubiquitous imagery as the sources for his art. After exhibiting his work in several galleries in the late 1950s and participating in a group exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1956, he soon began to receive recognition as an artist.
At the beginning of the 1960s, a prolific period that saw him rocket to fame across the world, Warhol began to screen-print commercial, consumer, and celebrity images in what are now some of the most iconic images of the 20th Century. A photograph of Marilyn Monroe, dollar bills, Campbell’s soup cans, a Brillo Soap box label, Coca Cola bottles, and more became immortalized in his art. Industrially-produced, ubiquitous images, and symbols transformed into icons of post-war America. Warhol also looked to controversial current affairs and newspaper headlines, taking as his subject scenes from the riots in the Civil Rights Movement, as well as the electric chair and other darker themes in the Death and Disaster series (1962-63). With this practice of appropriation, Warhol opened the door to a new form of art, one that removed the rarefied aura of high art and instead embraced everyday life and depersonalized mechanical processes as its subject and technique.
In 1963, he moved into his New York studio, known as ‘The Factory.’ At the center of the New York avant-garde, this became a well-known meeting place for the city’s creative and intellectual elite, as well as models, actresses, musicians, and drag queens alike. At the height of his fame as a painter, Warhol had several assistants who produced his silk-screen multiples, following his directions to make different versions and variations. From 1963 onward, Warhol was also a leading filmmaker, creating a number of experimental films including Sleep (1963) and Empire (1964).
Many of Warhol’s works and possessions are on display at The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. The foundation donated more than 3,000 works of art to the museum. Warhol’s iconic work can be found in museums around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Tate Modern Gallery, London; Pompidou Center, Paris, and the Kunstmuseum Basel, among many others.
Andy Warhol died unexpectedly following a routine gall bladder operation in February of 1987 in New York City.