Andy Warhol is once again in the news. The Metropolitan Museum is launching a major exhibition juxtaposing Warhol's creations with the works of other artists to show his influence. Christie's will auction off Warhol pieces for the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, which is donating and selling its collection. And companies like Campbell's Soup and Nars are marketing Warhol-inspired products in bright, poppy, contemporary-styled packaging. It's clear that Warhol, who died 25 years ago last February, continues to be a relevant figure for our Internet-obsessed time, maybe because in a lot of ways it seems he almost predicted a lot of how we do things now, what with his democratizing talk of 15 minutes of fame for everyone and the mechanization of art.
Just last year Flavorwire rounded up a list of some of the modern-day pop culture Warhol might have loved, like reality television, Lady Gaga, and the Internet. While it's hard to argue that every single Redditor who posts a meme thinks of Warhol as they modify an image of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, it's interesting to think about how Andy might have led us to this moment. We grabbed some of his most repeated quotes and compared them to the Internet of today.
"The reason I'm painting this way is because I want to be a machine." —Andy Warhol
You can make the case that Warhol was one of the original meme-makers with his hypnotically repetitive work, like his silkscreen portraits of celebrities including Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe. According to the Museum of Modern Art, Warhol "began making silkscreen paintings of popular icons" last month 50 years ago. Just like our present day meme-makers, he took familiar images and tinkered with them. As a PBS Idea Channel video put it: "User-generated culture is kind of like Andy Warhol's Factory in hyperdrive. It's a high speed collaboration between people recombining popular media, advertising, everything into new forms."
Just think of what Warhol could have done with GIFs.
"In the future, everybody will be world-famous for 15 minutes." —Andy Warhol
YouTube has a lot of elements of Warhol, the 15-minutes fame of some of its stars being one example, though some have argued that 15 minutes is too high an estimation of famousness in today's 24-hour news cycle. At any rate, Warhol's screen tests were perfectly YouTube ready, even back before YouTube. In fact, here's his muse Edie Sedgwick, on, where else, YouTube:
The screen tests have a narcissistic, intensely personal home-video quality to them, and as is the case with YouTube videos, often show their subjects at a too-close-for-comfort range. Think Chris Crocker, who, unlike the silent screen tests, was incredibly vocal:
Despite questions over the time today's Internet perusers will spend looking at, say, a cat picture, it also seems like 15 minutes can last a lot longer these days as those minutes beget an entire franchise. Crocker himself was the subject of a documentary recently, and other viral stars (think Alana of "Honey Boo Boo Child" fame) have managed to parlay their viral fame into entire television series—or at least, a lot of time spent front and center on the tabloids (Tan Mom?).
"Don't pay any attention to what they write about you. Just measure it in inches." —Andy Warhol
Warhol's world views are often — as we are doing here — boiled down to his pithy musings on the nature of art and life. If Warhol had an account, you can imagine his famous quips being tweeted and retweeted. In fact, some have already had that idea:
Never complain about a situation while the situation is still going on.— Andy Warhol (@AndyWarholSaid) August 19, 2012
What I'm most impressed with is when I meet somebody I thought I could never meet.— Andy Warhol (@andywarholsays) July 9, 2012
Warhol's quotations, including the ones included in this piece, are so frequently cited and offered up as life mantras that their context almost fades away. The best tweeters are those whose tweets stand alone. Take this one from Mindy Kaling, who hopes to parlay Twitter success into a successful sitcom:
I just want fun drama right before bed.— Mindy Kaling (@mindykaling) September 3, 2012
Warhol's message of not paying attention to what anyone else says and doing what you're going to do, for your own success, also reads similarly like today's Internet refrain of "Haters gonna hate."
"I believe in low lights and trick mirrors." —Andy Warhol
Warhol wanted to be a machine. Instagram is the current model of that machine, giving everyone the talent to take "artistic" (note the scare quotes) shots. Its richest members might fascinate him. In The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again) Warhol writes: "I have a Fantasy about Money: I'm walking down the street and I hear somebody say — in a whisper — 'There goes the richest person in the world.'" Would he have Instagrammed himself, or thought of something better? We can only speculate, but it's clear that 25 years after his death, there's still a lot of Warhol living on.