More than twenty years after his death, Andy Warhol remains one of the most influential figures in contemporary art and culture. Warhol was a key figure in the conception of Pop Art, an art movement that emerged in America and elsewhere in the 1950s and early ‘60s, and came to prominence over the next two decades. His images of popular culture celebrities including Elvis, Chairman Mao, Muhammad Ali and most famously, Marilyn Monroe, are among his most important contributions to contemporary art.
Warhol was obsessed with celebrity, consumer culture and the mechanical reproduction. Rather than deriving his work from subjective personal feelings or idealist visions for abstraction which had paved the course of Modern art, Warhol embraced popular culture and commercial processes, most notably silkscreen printing, for their detached and dispassionate manner as seen in his series of Campbell’s Soup Cans, 1962, and Brillo Pad Box Sculptures. In his lifetime, Warhol cultivated celebrity through his studio, the Factory, and his idiosyncratic appearance, defined by his unmistakable white wig. He produced the cover for the Velvet Underground’s eponymous debut album, as well as a series of accompanying multimedia events titled the Explosive Plastic Inevitable, and would prove to be a friend and mentor to emerging street artists Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring in the 1980s.
Warhol’s totemic presence in twentieth century art is reflected in the market for his work, which was coined the ‘one-man Dow Jones’ on account of its strength. Warhol’s auctions record stands at $105.5 million. Warhol’s cultural influence has been recognised institutionally, most recently at the major retrospective held at the Tate Modern, London, in 2020.