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Book Review: by Lang Reid
Warhol has been dead since 1987 following a simple operation that went
wrong. In the two decades since his death, people still debate whether he
was an artistic genius, or was he just a showman? Isabel Kuhl looks at the
life and times in this artist in the eponymous publication Andy Warhol
(ISBN 978-3-7913-3814-9, Prestel Publishing 2007).
The book is in four main sections - The Big Apple Takes Over, The Artist on
his Way Up, An Artist of the Everyday and No End to Andy Warhol.
The first section dealing with New York (the Big Apple) is more of an
historical/societal overview, showing how the prevailing conditions at the
time were conducive for original thought (though this does not imply
excellence). The ‘Beat generation’ icons such as Jack Kerouac and Allen
Ginsburg being prominent members.
The second section covering Warhol on the way up shows just how hard he
applied in making the contacts who could help him achieve his apparent
ambition of fame. Warhol was also not averse to giving all his autographed
books a low number, as he knew everyone preferred to think they were one of
the first! Warhol the marketer, as opposed to Warhol the artist. As he was
also so busy dreaming up his next self-promotion, the coloring of his
pictures was often left to others, and his mother forged his signature!
Warhol is even quoted as saying, “Sex and parties are the only things you
have to show up for in person.”
The third section covers the elevation to “art” given to everyday items,
with the Campbell’s soup tin being the most famous, and even used on the
cover of this book. For me, this shows that Warhol was a good graphic
advertising artist, and not much else. But then, each to his own!
On the inside of the back cover are advertisements for two other artists,
Salvador Dali and Gustav Klimt. I think Andy Warhol would have found it
amusing that he ended up alongside these two great artists. However it is my
opinion that Truman Capote, quoted in the book, said it best, “I’m not
saying that Andy Warhol has no talent … but I couldn’t say just what that
talent is - except perhaps in being a genius at selling himself.”
At B. 595, it is not a bad primer on someone who was really never a ‘great’
artist, but in the way he reproduced his art with silk-screening showed that
he was a trendsetter while trying all the time to make sure that everyone
knew that he was one. Posthumously his work sells for astronomical figures
(in the millions of dollars) and even at the time of his death he had
amassed an estimated $100 million estate.
Love him or loathe him, Andy Warhol remains a significant figure in the
western world history of art, and this inexpensive book, with good color
plates makes an excellent reference publication. It is also interesting that
this book was originally published in German (not Warhol’s native language)
showing his enduring appeal to the European art scene, and was later
translated into English.
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