Andy Warhol Pop Art Prince – King of People’s Perceptions

Marilyn Monroe by Andy Warhol
Marilyn Monroe by Andy Warhol

20th century American painter, print maker, avant-garde filmmaker, record producer and sometime author Andy Warhol (1928-1987) offered his age a unique insight into the reality of their perceptions.

He said Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art*

Warhol became a very successful exponent of what is now known as ‘pop art’, using imagery, symbolism and historical knowledge well. Warhol constantly challenged those people who thrived within his circle, as well as those living life outside the square through his controversial and revolutionary art works.

He set up a studio, not because he had a passion to paint, or a need to create beauty or even to reveal truth. He did it because in the cold hard light of day he saw that being commercial and marketing were in fact art forms within themselves. His studio used other talented people to produce work under his direction, just like any other manufactory.

This was like painters of times past, who used other painters (draperymen) proficient in painting textiles like silks, satins and rich velvets to complete the clothing in a portrait, while the artist produced the outline, the faces and the hands.

Warhol exploited his own ideas and his own creative talent to make money and to have and enjoy his moment in the sun, while helping others have their ‘15 minutes of fame’, a phrase that he coined.

Andy Warhol understood reality, symbolism and about how art can have a motivating and inspirational effect. He understood our needs perhaps better than we do ourselves.

During the 1960s, I think, people forgot what emotions were supposed to be. And I don’t think they’ve ever remembered*

An intelligent man Andy Warhol knew that art had the ability to elevate the ordinary.

He turned people’s expectations upside down by presenting commonplace objects, or repeated graphic images as works of “fine art” simply by presenting them in a way that no one had ever thought of before.

He also knew that by raising the mundane things of everyday to heroic proportions they would stimulate the intellect of some people, and fire up the feelings and emotions of others.

He ‘manufactured’ his works of art like you would any other product and became the King of people’s perceptions.


It would be very glamorous to be reincarnated as a great big ring on Liz Taylor’s finger*

American born English playwright, literary critic, and arguably the most important English-language poet of the twentieth century Thomas Stearns (T.S.) Eliot noted that ‘humankind cannot bear very much reality’.

Yet here we are all clamouring to watch more and more ‘reality’ TV.

But is the reality we are watching an accurate view of what is really happening behind the scenes? Are professional performance artists paid and planted among amateurs in numerous ‘talent’ shows to ensure the show gains a high standard of presentation? Is what is really happening behind the scenes different to most people’s perceptions about what is happening on stage?

When and where does admiration die and disillusionment set in?

Employees make the best dates. You don’t have to pick them up and they’re always tax-deductible*

Andy Warhol became an expert at marketing both his own public life, as well as those of personalities like comic book heroes Tarzan and Jane, as well as cultural icons like singer Elvis Presley or actress Marilyn Monroe.

Her beauty was perceived by many to be only skin deep. Was it he asked, as he repeated her image over and over again thrusting it at us to analyse. Surely there is a lot more going than what appears on the surface?

Warhol turned people’s everyday expectations and perceptions upside down constantly with his questions. He induced an epiphany of what art is or is not and made himself a fortune doing it.

He also had the faculty of executing well what he devised with technical knowledge and skillful proficiency.

Warhol understood that shapes and lines have an impact on the way we experience our own sense of place; that the function of vertical lines is to communicate stability strength and authority while diagonal lines represent movement, direction and calm. Architects use line in building to great effect.

The most exciting attractions are between two opposites that never meet*

He also understood colour influences and their effects based on theories put forward by colour psychologist and American art historian Faber Birren (1900 – 1988) and those of the poet, playwright, novelist and essayist in the German language Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 – 1832).

They were among the first to realize that sensations of colour reach our brain and are shaped by our perceptions – the mechanics attached to human vision and, by the way our brains process the information.

For instance red makes people hungry, which is why McDonald’s uses it so much; and that blue is a calming colour so not really suitable for a fast food restaurant. These are basics all designers learn to day and can use to great affect to manipulate people’s reactions.

According to Goethe, what we see of an object depends upon the object, the lighting and what we believe it to be or, our perception of what it is.

Fantasy love is much better than reality love. Never doing it is very exciting. The most exciting attractions are between two opposites that never meet*

Pop Art Prince Andy Warhol knew that works of art meet many needs, including that of the ‘artist’.  He didn’t want to pay the wages of art or beauty himself but to provide the lifestyle he wanted to enjoy. He concentrated on graphic works because he knew they would exhibit more than normal significance in a world rapidly being dominated by emerging technologies.

While he seemingly broke with all conventions with his methods he was also adhering to views inherent in the goals of Modernist artists of the late 19th century. The artists of the DeStijl movement, a 20th Century art movement centred in the Netherlands, were one of many groups working to achieve “honesty” in their artwork, which was in reflection a very lofty ideal.

Their perception and notion was that the art of the past was dishonest and that much European artwork had been painted to ‘fool’ the viewer’, which is what Warhol in reality delighted in doing.

When I got my first television set, I stopped caring so much about having close relationships*

Many people in his time were openly disturbed and scandalized by Warhol’s ability to affect the art market as much as he did. During the first decade of his works being on display there was a profound change in the culture attached to the art world in America.

His famous The American Supermarket event was enormously clever and very controversial. It put him on all the newspaper front pages. His painting of a can of Campbell’s Soup sold for $1,500 while the can itself sold for $6 nearby.

He wanted people to understand that affectation meant nothing if you did not understand what it was he was trying to say.

I love Los Angeles. I love Hollywood. They’re beautiful. Everybody’s plastic, but I love plastic. I want to be plastic*

Art is all about experience, study, observation and learning. It is about illustrating our world through skill, cunning, artifice and craft.

It has a personal often powerful and unanalyzable creative power and is about proficiency, invention, execution or even mystery, which is often plotted with great cunning.

Art can help create order and harmony by using the Golden mean, a mathematical ratio in use since the time of the ancient Greeks to create dynamic compositions in architecture and sculpture.

Art is about fantasy, recreating memories, floating above and looking down on our world and the silliness and stupidity of human behaviour. Art can express and generate feelings of chaos, of emptiness and loneliness as well as inspire, motivate and help spontaneity through romantic notions that are not about reality at all but about what we need or want.

Warhol knew that art could create beauty or enhance our environment. He knew how important symbolism is and how it would help to create a sense of awe.

An example is building with a great dome atop a Cathedral at Florence produced in a world that had no technology and had never seen a crane.

Or, that humble soup can of Campbell’s, which represented what is familiar and comforts the multitudes on a cold winter night.

I am a deeply superficial person*

Warhol’s book The Philosophy of Andy Warhol From A to B & Back Again published in 1975 is a self-consciously produced ironic pile of paper full of “quotable quotes” about love, beauty, fame, work, sex, time, death, economics, success, and art. He had this to say among other topics, about the popular soft drink Coca Cola

‘What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coca-Cola, Liz Taylor drinks Coca-Cola, and just think, you can drink Coca-Cola, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the cokes are the same and all the cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it’, and well now ‘you know it’ too’

At first Andy Warhol was dismissed by the inner sanctum of the New York Art world. His theories, practices and perceptions really upset the neat boxes they strived to put art and people into.

You were either in or out, not cool or decidedly so.

But he was more persistent, had endurance and lasted them all out until in the end they believed they had discovered him at the very essence of cool.

I always thought I’d like my own tombstone to be blank. No epitaph, and no name. Well, actually, I’d like it to say figment*

Valerie Solanas, a marginal figure in 1968 shot Warhol as well as art critic and curator Mario Amay in his studio, pleading that he had too much ‘control’ over her life. It was the single biggest and most real event of his journey in life and affected it and his art forever after.

In Kristine Stiles and Peter Howard Seiz’s 1996 ‘Warhol in His own Words’ he had this to say about the attack:

Before I was shot, I always thought that I was more half-there than all-there – I always suspected that I was watching TV instead of actually living life. People sometimes say that the way things happen in movies is unreal, but actually it’s the way things happen in life that’s unreal. The movies make emotions look so strong and real, whereas when things really do happen to you, it’s like watching television – you don’t feel anything’.

They always say that it is time that changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.

Andy Warhol believed that having land and not ruining it is the most beautiful art that anybody could ever want to own.

“If you want to know all about Andy Warhol” he said “just look at the surface of my paintings and films and me, and there I am. There’s nothing behind it”

Andy WarholMany historical figures have been beautiful, not only in their outward appearance but also within their souls, like some of the mistresses and consorts of the Kings of France.

Some lives have perhaps seemed on the surface shallow, but research reveals they were either far more fragile or, much more solid than most.

In fact we often find out that we really misunderstood a great deal about whom they really were and what they were on about and that whatever the age they lived in.

Without exception they all had to face their mortality exploring in depth feelings common to us all.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2011 – 2014

*Quotes by Andy Warhol

1 Comment

  • Be Pop Art says:

    It’s kind of ironic how somebody that said “I am a deeply superficial person” was able to changed Pop culture so deeply, don’t you think?

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