Many artists say they despise advertising.
One embraced it.
In fact, he started out in the business.
He even won awards.
And advertising coloured his work when he turned himself into an artist.
Andy Warhol recorded pop culture as he saw it.
Tomato Soup, various Apples and even a Lemon.
One of his Apple canvases sold for $900,000 at Sotheby’s recently.
A print is on Ebay at the moment for $400,000.
Lemon was part of his 1985 Ads Series.
This one is lime green.
That’s art for you.
A print sold at Bonham’s a couple of years ago for £30,000.
The price of two new Beetles.
Today, the ten ads he recreated in the Ads Series are among the most desirable of his screen prints.
He is reported to have said: “The commercial and the fine art are intermingled and kind of feed into each other.”
He was fascinated by fame.
Marilyn. Liz. Judy.
Also Campbell’s, Coca-Cola, Absolut.
He studied brands because he was intent on turning himself into one.
He would have known exactly what the young Victoria Adams meant when she declared that she wanted to be “famous like Persil.”
Today, the Beckham brand is better-known around the world than the soap powder she dreamed of being.
That’s what Warhol wanted.
To be more than a celebrity.
He wanted to be as much a part of American culture as the products he immortalised.
As the brand manager of himself, Warhol started with the packaging.
Twenty-five years before Steve Jobs, he was wearing black turtle-necks and faded blue jeans. The silver-blonde wig was carefully eccentric.
His pronouncements were intended to enrage the art establishment.
“Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art”, he wrote.
He ran an ad in ‘The Village Voice’ declaring, “I’ll endorse with my name any of the following: clothing, AC-DC, cigarettes, small tapes, sound equipment, Rock n’ Roll records, anything, Food, Helium, Whips, MONEY!! Love and kisses ANDY WARHOL.”
He set up The Factory.
His assistants did much of the work, turning out endless versions of his prints and lithographs.
He mass-produced images the way Campbell’s mass-produced soup.
His genius was to see that the idea was worth more than the execution.
Look at Marilyn. She was available in a startling variety of hues.
As Warhol himself noted, why labour over a painting that would make $25,000 when any one of twentyprints could fetch $20,000?
His belief that commerce and art belong together was attractive to creative people who wanted it all. Fame and money.
David Bowie, William Burroughs, Debbie Harry, Grace Jones, Madonna, Liza Minnelli, Lou Reed, they all became brand ambassadors.
And the brand became more and more valuable.
Warhol died relatively young in 1987.
30 years after he passed away, he continues to fascinate.
Where would Damian Hirst be without him?
And the brand continues to soar in value.
In November 2013, ‘Silver Car Crash’ sold for $105.4 million.
Still the highest price paid for a Warhol.
But one of his self-portraits has made $38.4 million.
And in November 2014 ‘Triple Elvis’ went for $81.9m.
Warhol-inspired mugs, calendars, bags and clothing are undoubtedly worth more.
And they are what has taken him where he hoped to be.
Not on the walls of the Whitney Museum but in the homes of millions of Americans.
Warhol-inspired jeans, tee-shirts, duvet covers also available.
A few of Warhol's Apples.
This orange Lemon sold for £53,000 in 2016
Warhol's fascination with celebs and with adverts came together in the Judy Garland for Blackglama prints. (Blackglama make and sell mink coats.)
Maybe this says it all? He's still relevant and he's still interesting because he was more than an artist and a commentator, he was and is a brand.