Blake Gopnik tries to erase the line between the serious Warhol, who was a Pop Art pioneer, and the late, celebrity-fixated Warhol, who viewed commercial success as artistic success:
The “serious” art world once wanted no part of that Warhol. In his own day, Warhol the TV star and painter of celebrities could look like a clear falling-off from, and selling out of, the great Warhol of classic pop art. “A lot of people had difficulty with him moving between the art world and fashion,” remembers John Hanhardt, a veteran film curator who knew him. (“The films are the great body of work—they are simply breathtaking,” Hanhardt adds. Many artists now feel the same.)
Warhol’s critics weren’t wrong to say he sold out. Works like his Shadow Paintings or the metal surfaces he peed on, let alone his Love Boat cameo, don’t register as unique works of genius, as his early works do. But that’s because Warhol had moved on to making un-unique art that tested what selling out might be about, in an America where selling more matters most. When Warhol churned out 102 almost illegible canvases, different only in their colorways, it was partly to explore the power of his brand and the mass production of the Warhol™ product. “I always think that quantity is the best gauge on anything,” Warhol once said, and that maxim came to govern his art. When rich collectors pay through the nose for a single shadow painting, as though it were a Rembrandt, they aren’t understanding what Warhol’s products mean. But they are proving his point, anyway.
“If we are going to be honest about what we’re taking from Warhol, we have to accept the business/art network as what he’s about,” says Bankowsky, the Pop Life curator. “The debased Warhol is actually the pure Warhol.”
The Other Andy (The Daily Beast/Newsweek)