Initially emerging in the 1950s through the 1970s, Pop Art explored the application of popular and commercial culture in fine art. Artists discarded traditional approaches to art, employing instead imagery and techniques related to mass production that they felt was more relevant to their daily lives. Their sources were not the old masters but celebrities, advertising, product packaging, popular music and comic books.
Pop Art was initially critiqued as being ‘low art’, but it was misunderstood. Artists wanted their works to be read and easily understood by the everyday viewer, to create art that was unalienating. Not only is the work of Andy Warhol undoubtedly the best examples of art for the masses, the artist himself and his works wholly embodied Pop Art. Warhol was, and still is, undoubtedly the greatest Pop artist who ever lived for namely ten reasons.
1 . Warhol came to Pop Art with an existing commercial background
In the 1950s Warhol worked in advertising and graphic design for companies such as Tiffany & Co., Glamour magazine and I. Miller. At I. Miller he created some of his most iconic graphic works of shoes, notably the series A La Recherché du Shoe Perdu. He would of course move into the world of fine art but he most certainly did not leave these experiences behind. Instead, Warhol carried them with him, giving his Pop artworks an additional layer of authenticity and another layer of meaning.
2. The majority of his works are based on pre-existing images
Warhol outwardly appropriated images. Works such as Paramount (F. & S. II.352) and Mao are fundamentally the logos and photographs that they were taken from, just adjusted by Warhol and imbued with Day-Glo colours. Warhol’s approach went further than simply drawing inspiration from popular culture and consumerism – like so many of his contemporaries, his approach to art instead famously self-defined as being “what you can get away with.”
3. Not only did Warhol create imagery out of existing imagery, but he created celebrities out of celebrities
Celebrities were crucial components of popular culture during the time of figures such as Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley. Warhol took images of them from magazines or newspapers and, once again, layered them with his eye-catching colours. Warhol’s images of these internationally famous people have now become iconic of the celebrities themselves. Award winning art critic Jerry Saltz even referred to his conception of Elizabeth Taylor as being Warhol’s depictions of her, such as Liz.
4. Warhol’s subjects are all recognisable and easily digestible
Warhol’s subjects were by no means outlandish; they most certainly are not akin to the paint splatters of the Abstract Expressionists. Viewers of all backgrounds then and now are not alienated when before a Warhol work – everyone can compute a picture of Marilyn Monroe and an endless series of Coca-Cola bottles. The obviousness of his work, that which many critiqued him for, is actually what launched his career. Everyone got his work, except for his few original critics.
5. He worked in popular mediums such as TV, film and even created his own magazine
Warhol wanted to be part of the media that broadcasted the celebrities he so loved. MTV gave him a show titled Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes while he created endless films in his studio featuring his glamourous entourage. In 1969 Warhol founded Interview, a magazine that interviewed artists and pop culture icons. Until its closure in 2018, Interview featured the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio and Brooke Shields whose relevance to popular culture even today cannot be denied.
6. Still, Warhol is most known for his mass-produced work in screen print
In 1962 Warhol began work in screen print, a medium that allowed him to produce images in mass, including images he found in the media. Because of Warhol’s extensive work in screen print his name and work has become virtually synonymous with the medium.
7. Warhol was able to produce works so quickly because of his studio, The Factory
The name awarded to Warhol’s studio sets the tone for what he did there – he created works in mass quantities with the help of an assembly of people. Together they created work devoid of the artist’s hand, a concept that Pop artists were extremely interested in. They also partied, a lot.
8. He did, and still does, merit celebrity status himself
Warhol was the most sought-after socialite. People flocked to the Factory for the opportunity to be surrounded by the most interesting people and be in the presence of a master at work. To be at the Factory or anywhere Warhol was meant social relevance. A party wasn’t a party after all unless Warhol was there, even if it was a dud just moments before he walked in. Warhol was, in effect, the kind of celebrity from the magazines he obsessed over as a young kid.
9. Warhol had friendships with the world’s freshest and most intriguing talent
Notable of his friends, mentees and collaborators were Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. The two men were young, fresh talent who began as street artists with the intent to create art for the public to see. The 20th Montreux Jazz Festival poster completed with Haring in 1986 and Problems with Basquiat in 1984 are two examples of Warhol’s collaborations with artists working to create imagery for the everyday passer-by.
10. He inevitably became the culture he was commenting on
Today Warhol is a cultural icon. As a person, his awkward presence, bright white wig and intriguing statements have moulded him into one of the most iconic personas. Photographs of him and reproductions of his most famous and mass-produced works are constantly being reproduced on merchandise and fashion items everywhere, from museum shops to high fashion t-shirts. Warhol’s impact on culture and his relevance to consumerism is further proven by the adoption of his work and likeness in advertising campaigns. Warhol is, in effect, a brand.