Andy Warhol’s self portrait (not the first here, but the purple thing…) sold some years back for $32.6 million. But that’s nothing, mere chump change; the highest price I’ve seen ever 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 ) from Pittsburgh had some talent, even if I think an objective observer would rank it on par with what many good art school students churn out anywhere. The price he commands in death, clearly, is not for the art—when it rose even near the level of art, of a sort—but for the cultural idol he was packaged to be by the Wreckers. His “value” is the measure of our postmodern cluelessness and, of course, the elite Money machines in New York / LA work, and of how little we value ourselves. 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. I don’t think Warhol spent enough time even trying.
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 art. And they did their jobs well. Young people today are taught to revere them practically more than anyone found in the past. It’s a different kind of “experience”. Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Waterhouse, Tchaikovsky, Milton, Dostoevesky, these were pushed over in the popular imagination decades ago.
Oppressive … all that insistence on technique and natural gifts. If the speculators in Manhattan can convince us of their “value,” and rake in the bucks, well, too bad for you and me.
Perception is reality according to the Con advertising moguls who taught Andy all he knew. It’s where he got started. Advertising. Increasingly people pay what they are told is value, even when it is counter-intuitive. They stare and wonder why their ‘spiritual’ faculties are so off kilter that they just don’t get the gnosis. So they believe the new high-priests of the marketplace.
That Warhol was homosexual too was a big plus in his role as useful destroyer and metaphysical despiser of creation’s natural diversity. 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 decadence, at least still had residual traditional taste, respect for intellect, an acute sense of history, literature, movies and art. But judge his words and assessment for yourself if you’ve seen his “movies” on YouTube.
It doesn’t get much better than that kind of luring risky nonsense, ever. Well maybe just a very little, since he could talk, in a clipped fashion. That was just Andy, whether sober or drugged, what’s the difference?
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”.
Since the early 60’s that’s been ‘our’ lightning fast trajectory as well, obviously; except now we are “there” and have HD TV to magnify hyperreality into hyper-hyper-hyper reality, a thing Andy would have loved—or pretended he didn’t; I don’t know. He was never disturbed by facts, or the way things are, he preferred to see, project and paint the whole world in hallucinatory hues and images. For him the distorted copy was the Real, the original (he was baptized Byzantine Catholic after all) had long ago been hopelessly misplaced in his unhinged mind and / or will.
And that’s just what the Destroyer-promoters, the titans of Manhattan, needed and wanted him to project. The image. He was the New Man who helped serve as a bridge for the New World that they too were hallucinating into being after the assassination of JFK, but with big guns to back it up, not just silkscreens, sex, amphetamines, and almost every other type of deadly substance.
Andy even destroyed his friends at “The Factory” (the name of his Manhattan—where else?—studio), if he was capable of any real friendship at all, a very controversial question. He was clearly enamored of some persons from time to time, like the poor waif, Edie Sedgwick. But when he got bored they were thrown away like old 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 pimped her (my words) 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, that he refused to pay her; and when she grew depressed at his growing distance and then finally collapsed into more darkness and more heroin he did absolutely nothing to rescue her.
He soaked these perverse little playthings with drugs(2) and a safe house to do them and to be watched wallowing and spiraling in free-fall decadence towards death if they were unlucky, sought out by fools from the music and entertainment “scene” all the while; but he dropped them fast when he got sick of them, or when they began asking for their just recompense(3).
Edie died at 28, probable suicide, drugs for sure; she reportedly still rakes in big bucks for Warhol’s estate as part of the Mystique, and still Wows the avant-garde wannabees. Warhol, who called her “a wonderful, beautiful blank,” could indeed be a cruel bastard. One 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.
In the end The Factory was a giant sink, and Warhol the deadly drain; down, down, down went everyone who wanted to be close to him, and all the sycophants, one way or the other down into the vortex he was. To this day he still spiritually and psychologically eviscerates many, long after his death. But much worse than Andy were the pigs who promoted him out of greed and still profit by him, though they knew very well what a “scene” he was. May God have mercy on their [and our] souls.
(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.
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—ex 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 for the scene; I blossomed into a healthy young drug addict”. (Edie: American Girl, by Jean Stein, George Plimpton)
(3)Andrea Feldman was one of Warhol’s girls. She was homeless and despite “starring” in Warhol porno 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.