Andrew Warhola, who later styled himself as Andy Warhol, was born in 1928 in Pittsburgh to immigrants from what is now modern day Slovakia. A sickly child, Warhol contracted choreia, a neurological disorder characterised by abnormal involuntary movements which left him bedridden. During this period of illness he collected and drew magazine clippings of movie stars. This was to inform his later obsession with celebrity, seen in his silk-screen prints of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and Elizabeth Taylor, produced from 1962 onwards.
Relocating to New York in 1949, Warhol began a career in magazine and advertising illustration, seen in his Ice Cream Dessert and Shoe, Shoes, Shoes art prints of the mid-1950s. Warhols later artwork blurred the boundaries between art and pop culture as he plundered images from advertising culture. He depicted American brands such as Campbell's Soup and Brillo, using replicas of their packaging in repeated patterns, perhaps as a comment on the banality of mass consumer culture.
Warhol's legendary studio in midtown Manhattan was named The Factory, where he set up a mass-production assembly line to produce his art in the most efficient way possible. The Factory also became the premises for wild parties amongst the bohemian New York set. In 2006, Sienna Miller portrayed the actress Edie Sedgwick in Factory Girl, a film set around Sedgwick's relationship with Warhol in the mid-1960s and the shenanigans in his NYC studio.
In his lifetime, Andy Warhol cemented his own celebrity status by partying with the right New Yorkers but also by the sheer volume of the work he produced including drawings, screen-prints, paintings, photographs, films and installations. He had his own TV show, magazine and acted in Japanese commercials. Warhol also undertook advertising commissions, managed The Velvet Underground & Nico rock outfit, designing their notorious Banana album cover in 1967. He also indulged in a spot of modelling and book writing. Indeed, was there anything that Andy Warhol, the master manipulator of the media, hadnt done?
In 1968, Valerie Solanas, a former actress in one of Warhol's films and a member of SCUM (The Society for Cutting Up Men) attempted to murder the artist outside his studio, paranoid that he was stealing her ideas for artistic gain. Warhol survived the shooting but became emotionally scarred by the incident, making him obsessed with notions of death in his later work. Andy Warhol died of cancer in 1987, after somewhat over-extending his allotted 15 minutes of fame.
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