Andy Warhol’s self portrait (not the first photo seen here, but the purple thing…) sold some years back for $32.6 million. But that’s mere chump change; the highest price I’d seen fetched for a Warhol painting is $100 million for a 1963 canvas titled Eight Elvises.
Imagine. I mean, the pop painter, printmaker and so-called filmmaker (pornographer is more like it 1) from Pittsburgh had some talent, even if I think an objective observer would rank it on par with what many art school students might churn out anywhere.
The price he commands in death, clearly, is not for the objective “art”(*) but for the cultural idol he was packaged to be. His “value” is the measure of how our postmodern cluelessness works. Picasso at least thought a person needs to be (as Picasso—for all his decadence — was and Andy was not) a classical artist of some high caliber before he deserved to be taken seriously in artistic experimentation.
Not that I think much of Picasso’s “modern” art. Both he and Andy in any case are considered to have been high avant-garde, which only means destroyers of traditional values and traditional art. And they did their jobs well. Young people today are taught to revere them practically more than anyone found in the past. Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Tchaikovsky, Milton, Waterhouse, Dostoevesky, these were pushed over the horizon in the popular imagination by Critical Theory decades ago.
All the old insistence on technique and natural gifts was simply oppressive, we have been told. If the speculators in Manhattan can convince us of that, and of the “value” of the New, they can rake in very big bucks from newer generations when they sell everything from Tee Shirts to coffee cups and beyond.
Perception is reality according to the Conmen, women and advertising moguls who taught Andy all he knew. It’s where he got started.
Increasingly people pay what they are told is value, even when it is counter-intuitive. They stare and wonder why their artistic and ‘spiritual’ faculties are so off kilter that they just don’t get it, the gnosis. So they simply believe the high-priests of the marketplace and buy a new Che or Andy tee-shirt.
So the Corporations co-opted the political Left. After all, the hard Left can be convinced of anything as long as they can have their kinds of unfettered sex. And youth is where the money is.
That Warhol was homosexual too was a big plus in his role as useful destroyer of tradition and renegade metaphysical despiser of creation’s natural binary structure. It is common to hear poor souls today describe him as a “genius”. But Gore Vidal pegged it when he said “Andy Warhol is the only genius I’ve ever known with an I.Q. of 60”. Vidal, for all of his own old school Leftist decadence, at least still retained residual traditional taste, respect for intellect, an acute sense of history, literature, movies and art. Warhol it appeared had none of this.
Joel Nikolaou, an admirer of Warhol, said truly in the European Fashion Examiner,
“Like in Rome, decadence had become entertainment, and an end in itself instead of a means to an end. Rome provided its populace the dole, free bread, and the Circus. People didn’t have to work in order to survive, and were fed a constant stream of cheap lurid entertainment to divert their attention away from more pressing matters of the empire”.
And since the early 60’s that’s been our lightning fast trajectory as well, obviously; except now we have HD “Smart” TV’s, Smartphones and mega computers to magnify reality into hyper-hyper reality, a thing Andy would have loved—or pretend he didn’t.
Warhol, projected the whole world in hallucinatory tones and images. For him the distorted copy was the Real. The original (he was baptized Byzantine Catholic after all) had long ago been misplaced.
And that’s just what the destroyers, the titans of Manhattan and Silicone Valley, needed: The image as self-reproducing commodity, disorienting gazillions of diverse images eclipsing The Word and all words. He was the New Man who helped serve as a bridge for a New World they were hallucinating into being with big guns to back it all up, not just silkscreens, sex, amphetamines, Fentanyl and almost every other type of lethal substance.
Andy even destroyed his friends at “The Factory” (the name of his Manhattan—where else?—studio), if he was capable of real friendships at all —a very controversial question.
He was clearly enamored of some persons from time to time, like the poor waif, Edie Sedgwick, a troubled socialite from a wealthy family. But when he inevitably got bored with them they were thrown away like yesterday’s dishrags, akin to what our culture, made in Andy’s image, does to young girls and women today. Usefulness had its limits for him, after all. George Plimpton of The Paris Review, said that after Warhol got hold of the Twiggy-like electric beauty and effectively pimped Sedgwick for fame in films, in which her drugged nakedness was the whole of it, she went into a lethal downward spiral.
Everyone at The Factory knew he had used Edie as an arm piece for parties, for “glamor,” for voyeuristic “movie” shoots in various degrees of undress, and that he refused to even pay her; and when she grew depressed over his growing boredom with her she then finally collapsed into more and more darkness, and more heroin as Andy got more and more rich. He did absolutely nothing to rescue her.
Warhol soaked these perverse little playthings with drugs(2) and The Factory served as a curious Safe House to do them. They were sought out and applauded by many in the music and entertainment “scene” all the while; but he dropped them too when he got sick of them, or when they began asking for their just recompense(3).
Edie died at age 28, probably suicide, drugs for sure; she reportedly still rakes in big bucks for Warhol’s estate as part of his Mystique, and still Wows the so-called avant-garde wannabees online and elsewhere.
Warhol, who called Sedgwick “a wonderful, beautiful blank,” could indeed be a cruel bastard. One crazed woman shot him to make the point, but he survived that one. Nothing like a bullet to wake one up, somewhat anyway, in Andy’s advanced stage.
Edie Sedgwick said before her death, “Im a little nervous about saying anything about ‘The Artist’ because it kind of sticks right between the eyes, but he deserves it. Warhol really F—d up a great many people’s—young people’s—lives. My introduction to heavy drugs came through the Factory… I was a good target for The Scene; I blossomed into a young drug addict”. (Edie: American Girl, by Jean Stein, George Plimpton)
In the end The Factory was a giant sink or toilet, and Warhol was the deadly drain; down, down, down went many who wanted to be close to him, and all the sycophants, they went down one way or the other, deep into the vortex.
To this day Andy Warhol still spiritually and psychologically eviscerates many, long after his death. But much worse than Andy even are the profiteering elites who promoted him out of greed and who still profit by him, though they knew very well what a “scene” he was. May God have mercy on their [and our] souls. —SH
(1) Films like Flesh for Frankenstein. “In the United States, the film was marketed as Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein, and was presented in the Space-Vision 3-D process in premiere engagements. It was rated X by the MPAA, due to its explicit sexuality and violence—“Wikipedia.
Many others also. Grotesque mostly, by many accounts, sex with animals, buggery, orgies… Edie: American Girl, by Jean Stein, George Plimpton
His art work is more complicated. I like his Last Supper paintings in some ways; his stylized portraits of famous persons also show a natural talent. But Andy Warhol was more than a painter, he was a philosophy creating what some describe as ‘a culture’; and that philosophy-culture which he was ruined the talent he could possibly have been.
(3)Andrea Feldman was one of Warhol’s girls. She was homeless and despite “starring” in Warhol films, he refused even to pay her. One day she finally demanded money. She had nowhere to go. Warol refused again, and gave her “some cheap bracelets instead”. (Edie: American Girl, by Jean Stein, George Plimpton)
Warhol trashed her for his glory, as he did so many others. Geraldine Smith, writes, “Andrea Feldman, one of Andy Warhol’s superstars, jumped to her death on August 8 at 4:30 pm from a 14th floor window at 51 Fifth Avenue, taking with her a crucifix and Bible she found in a church a few days before… Andrea left a note addressed to everyone she knew, saying she loved us all, but ‘I’m going for the big time”. Andy deserted her too—in life and in death.
Originally titled Andy, Andy Penny Candy. Perception as Value
(*) If it is true that for Aquinas “that which, when seen, pleases,” is an approach to his aesthetics, it is not the whole of his teaching.