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Monday, November 29, 2010

Andy Warhol

We all seem to have a hunger to know how the "other half" lives.  Actually the term is a misnomer in that we are usually referring to celebrities, wealthy ones at that, and they make up far fewer than HALF our population. In terms of art, there are very few genuine celebrities alive today and those who are, guard their private lives desperately. It's only when a celebrity passes on that we sometimes get a glimpse into their closely guarded private lives. It usually takes an author to pry into such things and one such author was Robert Colacello. The artist whose life he pried into was a friend and colleague who helped him found Interview Magazine--Andy Warhol.

The first of the series that
made Warhol famous, dating
from 1968
 Along with Picasso, Dali, and maybe two or three more, Warhol leads the list of true painter-celebrities of the twentieth century. Some artists, like Warhol, thrive on their celebrity status. Most abhor it. Contrary to popular believe, it wasn't Warhol who invented the phrase "fifteen minutes of fame", but it was he who celebrated often as possible. (Marshall McLuhan likely said it first.) We are already familiar with Warhol's legendary soup cans, Brillo boxes, and celebrity Pop portraits. We're almost as familiar with his chauffeur-driven forays to flea-markets and garage sales where he amassed his phenomenal cookie jar collection. Yet, beyond his groundbreaking Pop Art paintings and photographic silkscreens, Warhol's artistic interest also extended into Avant-garde film making and publishing. Recently, Warhol's East Side, New York City townhouse was awarded it's "fifteen minutes of fame" as a plaque was mounted to it's red brick facade declaring it a National Historic Landmark. Warhol bought the five-story townhouse in 1974 for $310,000.  He lived there until his death in 1989 following gall bladder surgery.  He would have been 82 today.

Living there with him was interior designer, Jed Johnson, plus two dachshunds, Amos and Archie. His favorite room was the kitchen, where he was in the habit of eating, even before going out to eat. He seldom ate anything other than white foods such as cottage cheese, apples, turkey breast, white bread, and popcorn (little wonder he had gall bladder problems). According to a onetime confident who was privileged to access Warhol's private domain, he was not the "neat" person usually seen in his public image.  His home was littered with used batteries, Polaroid film, and in his bathroom, a collection of pimple medicine of heroic proportions.  He slept in a bed with a dark brown canopy while on his night stand were two crucifixes, two alarm clocks, and a box of dog biscuits.

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