Everyone has heard of Andy Warhol, and mostly everyone knows that he had associations with the Pop Art movement.
Most of us are even aware that he painted the Campbell’s soup cans, as well as Elvis and Marilyn Monroe.
Still more of us might be aware of the fact that a Warhol print sold last year for a staggering £50 million.
But despite his celebrity and fame, charisma and fashion, Andy Warhol was also a deeply complex, mysterious character who had many secrets that he kept private. So let’s unravel some of the mystery to the man behind the shades by taking a look at 8 things you didn’t know about Andy Warhol.
Andy’s Original Name Was Andrew Warhola
Andy Warhol didn’t always have the cool, chic name that he had in later life, and indeed retained his birth name Andrew Warhola for a few years into his artistic career.
It was only when his commercial art at Vogue and Glamour was really taking off that Warhol decided to shed all allusions to his Slovakian past by dropping the “A” from his surname and tightening up his Christian name.
Warhol wasn’t the first emigre artist to change his surname in a bid to appear more American. Abstract Expressionist Mark Rothko was born Marcus Rothkovich, but changed his name once he gained American citizenship.
Andy Had A Body Double
Warhol multiplied reality hundreds of times by reprinting the same image over and over again in a single painting. From several Elvis’ to several Marilyn’s, Warhol’s idea was that the media repeated reality hundreds of times in a bid to dilute us to terror, meaning and interpretation.
Yet his obsession with representing the same thing more than once also spilled over into his personal life. He was a man obsessed with the idea of being in two places at once, and so hired a body double to impersonate him at events that he couldn’t make.
And the best thing? It actually worked! Warhol’s distinctive image of grey-blonde hair and sunglasses was easily replicated and the public were fooled.
Andy Always Insisted He Was A Virgin
Throughout his life, the charismatic artist always insisted that he was asexual, and that he had never had sex. Rumours persisted that he was a homosexual, but Warhol was forever coy about his sexuality.
Andy Painted Plane Crashes And The Electric Chair
Although the terminology of Warhol’s art is largely made up of objects we tend to associate with mass consumption, such as tins of soup and coke, Warhol also forayed into darker subject matter when he felt like so doing. Among his paintings and prints, then, are harrowing plane crashes and stark, arresting shots of the electric chair.
Warhol struggled during his early years to be taken seriously as an artist, and painting such dark subject matter was one of his attempts to be elevated alongside other serious artists at the time, such as Jasper Johns and Robert Rauchenberg.
Andy Made 24 Hour Long Movies
Andy Warhol was in fact one of the first American’s to embrace the avant-garde cinema that the European’s were doing so well, with his 24-hour long films including such pearls of the silver screen as Four Stars, Empire, and Sleep.
Warhol was dissatisfied with the American studio system, and wanted his audience to be challenged and not vacuously entertained. As a consequence of Warhol’s interest in experimental cinema, many now claim him to be one of the biggest instigators of the massive shake-up in Hollywood.
Without Warhol, there may never even have been The Godfather. Maybe.
Andy Was The First To Merge Cinema With Music
In the mid-sixties, Andy Warhol began working with an American rock band called The Velvet Underground. He saw them as a project, and worked with them to realise his own artistic and commercial ambitions.
The result was that the band toured in front of a backdrop of Andy’s movies, thereby becoming the first ever live band to seamlessly merge music with film. It worked too, and the band have since become one of America’s biggest ever cultish obsessions.
He even designed the cover for their first album, which was basically a peeling banana.
Andy Just Loved To Tape Record His Conversations
If you ever met Andy, you would have soon realised that Andy never went anywhere without his trusty tape recorder. He would use it to record conversations, which he would then use for artistic projects, such as the play Pork.
Indeed, one or two of his artistic projects were literally just recordings of him and his friends talking. Mundane and even drab, they were still very real – which is just what Warhol wanted.
Andy Always Preferred To Eat Alone
Andy Warhol was never much of a man for eating around others, and indeed preferred to eat by himself. In fact, he preferred to eat by himself so much that he dreamed of opening a chain of restaurants that would be called ANDY-MATS.
The tagline? “The restaurant for the lonely person.”