It's been twenty five years since Andy Warhol died from complications following gallbladder surgery, and he's arguably more popular today than ever before. He's the world's third highest art auction earner (above even Pablo Picasso) and his painting '8 Elvises' is one of the world's most expensive paintings, valued at a reported $100 Million dollars.
It could be said that his work is some of the most recognised in the world, whether you know about art or not. But is this because of the subject matter used or the work itself?
Warhol's most iconic image is probably the Campbell's Soup Can; if you ask ten people to name a Warhol piece, I reckon at least eight will name it, while two will stare at you blankly and pick their nose. I was talking to someone about this recently and I suggested that without Warhol, not half as many people would know of Campbell's soup. Here's my logic: Unlike Coca Cola ,(which Andy did paint) in the 1960s, Campbell's probably didn't have the budget to have Don Draper create a pithy campaign capable of permeating the collective consciousness for decades. Nowadays, of course, Campbell's is a strong brand that can buy rival companies, but I wonder if they were helped by their soups being synonymous with cool?
Warhol's love of commercial imagery is just one of tools that made him almost prophetic. Nowadays, the power of a brand name is common knowledge, with everyone owning logo-emblazed clothing. But when Andy starting making his Brillo boxes people couldn't understand why he was claiming that the contents of his supermarket shelves were considered art. It's hard to believe now that if we went back in time, and saved your Dad from spying on your Mum changing, and fell out of a tree, and got hit by your Grandad's car, that Mum would think our name was Calvin Klein just because it was written on your pants. Because back in the 50s/60s it was strange to showcase a label or brand name.
According to Andy Warhol in 1968 "in the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes." Apart from the fact that the term "15 minutes of fame" is now part of the modern discourse, this has become true. With Youtube, Facebook, Blogging and twitter, the vox populi is shared internationally. All I'd have to do is dress in a bra and dance to Charles and Eddie in a provocative manner on film and I'd be shared in every office in the land. But let's face it, my wife won't film me doing her birthday dance.
Warhol saw the coming hordes (or whores) of reality TV over the hill. Joey Essex would probably been in one of his films, and people like Kim Kardashian have almost adopted his idea that it's best if you "don't pay any attention to what they write about you. Just measure it in inches."
All you have to do is look up quotes by the man and you'll see nuggets that presage current social trends.
Second Life: "Fantasy love is much better than reality love. Never doing it is very exciting. The most exciting attractions are between two opposites that never meet."
Popularity of porn both internet and on the page: "Sex is more exciting on the screen and between the pages than between the sheets."
Tracey Emin/Damian Hirst/Banksy "Art is what you can get away with."
So, here we are half a century since his work started going on display and we're living in Andy Warhol's world.
It's no surprise that he's so popular; his work speaks to the conditioning society has given us. A year doesn't go by without a Warhol exhibition being on in London, with two of the Capital's most respected galleries, Gagosian and Halcyon Gallery, giving people a free look at some of the master's work.
While artistically Andy Warhol may not be regarded as having the technical prowess of Rembrandt, the abstract beauty of Dali or the form of Caravaggio, no other artist has managed to predict the zeitgeist of their descendants so perfectly.