the importance of being Warhol

this is an accumulation of quotes from various authors which emphasise the importance of Andy Warhol's work from a philosophical, art historical and cultural-theory perspective ... for references please see the pop library ... at the moment it is still a bit 'unstructured' but I'm working on it. Stay tuned ;)

Jean Baudrillard, theorist and philosopher

"Andy Warhol does not belong to any avant-garde or utopia. He settles his accounts with utopia because contrary to other artists who keep comfortably deferring the idea, he enters directly into the heart of utopia, into the heart of nowhere. He identified himself with this nowhere, he was this nowhere place that is the very definition of utopia. He managed to move through the space of avant-garde and reach the place it was striving to occupy: nowhere." (Baudrillard, 2005: 44)

"What is good about Warhol is that he is Stoical, agnostic, puritanical and heretical all at the same time. Having all the qualities, he generously credits all around him with them. The world is there, and it's excellent. People are there, and they're OK. They have no need to believe in what they are doing, they're perfect. He is the best, but everyone's a genius. Never before has the privilege of the creator been squashed in such a way, by a kind of maximalist irony." (Baudrillard, 2002: 82)

"Warhol reintroduces nothingness into the heart of the image. In this sense, we cannot say he is not a great artist: fortunately for him, he is not an artist at all. The point of his work is a challenge to the very notion of art and aesthetics." (Baudrillard, 2002: 79) 

"Whereas art was once essentially an utopia - that is to say, ultimately unrealizable - today this utopia has been realized: thanks to the media, computer science and video technology, everyone is now potentially a creator. Even anti-art, the most radical of artistic utopias, was realized once Duchamp had mounted his bottle-dryer and Andy Warhol had wished he was a machine. All the industrial machinery in the world has acquired an aesthetic dimension; all the world's significance has been transfigured by the aestheticizing process." (Baudrillard, The Transparency of Evil) 

"In the same way, one could speak of the transvestites of aesthetics, of whom Andy Warhol appears as the emblematic figure. Like Michael Jackson, Andy Warhol appears as a solitary mutant, a precursor of a perfect universal hybridizantion of art, of a new aesthetics after all aesthetics have dissappeared. Like Jackson, he was a perfectly artificial character, but he was also innocent and pure. He was an androgyne of the new generation, a sort of mystical prosthesis or artificial machine which delivered us from sex and aesthetics, thanks to its perfection. When Warhol said, 'all art works are beautiful, I don't have to choose - all the contemporary works are equal,' he took the position of the agnostic, the one who believes in God without believing in him, without believing that he believes in him." (Baudrillard, Transpolitics, Transsexuality, Transaesthetics)

"[...] the World Trade Center's two towers are perfect parallelepipeds, four hundred meters high on a square base; they are perfectly balanced and blind communication vessels. The fact that there are two identical towers signifies the end of all competition, the end of every original reference. Paradoxically, if there were only one, the WTC would not embody the monopoly, since we have seen that it becomes stable in a dual form. For the sign to remain pure it must become its own double: this doubling of the sign really put an end to what is designated. Every Andy Warhol does this: the multiple replicas of Marylin Monroe's face are of course at the same time the death of the original and the end of presentation." (Baudrillard, Symbolic Exchange and Death)



Arthur C. Danto, philosopher and art critic

"Andy Warhol's contibution to the definition of art was made not through text, but through remarkable body sculptures, which constituted his first project upon taking possession of the Silver Factory in 1963, and was shown the following spring at the Stable Gallery, which is today the business entrance on the 74th Street of the Whitney Museum of Art. The Brillo Box became a kind of philosophical Rosetta Stone, since it allowed us to deal with two languages - the language of art and the language of reality. The partial definition of art that I developed in The Transfiguration of the Commonplace was the result of reflections on the questions this remarkable object raised." (Danto, 2013: 29)


"It is worth asking oneself how many other American artists would have made the headlines had they been shot. The New York Post informed its readers 'Andy Warhol Fights for Life', on the assumption that its readers would know who was being talked about, and would have bought a copy of the paper to find out more. Of no other artist in America would this have been true. The Post's readers would have known that he was the guy who painted Campbell's Soup Cans. Even if we had given up painting, he remained an artist in the public mind. The fact that he now made movies instead of paintings meant that he was an artist who made movies. He had expanded the concept of the artist who made movies. He had expanded the concept of the artist as someone who no longer limited his product to one particular medium. There would have been no other American artist of whom something like that was true. He really reinvented the concept of the artist as free to use whatever medium presented itself. Even the most creative artists lived conventional artists' lives in comparison with his. He persisted in his view that painting, in his own case at least, was a finished phase, without this meaning that he was not continuing to be an artist. He had simply found ways of continuing to be an artist who no longer painted. That did not mean he felt comfortable about what he was, as Leo Castelli said about him. It just meant that feeling comfortable was no part of being an artist as he understood it." (Danto, 2009: 106)


"(Warhol) invented, one might say, an entirely new kind of life for an artist to lead, involving music, style, sex, language, film and drugs, as well as art. But beyond that, he changed the concept of art itself, so that his work induced a transformation in art's philosophy so deep that it was no longer possible to think of art in the same way that it had been thought of even a few years before him. He induced, one might say, a deep discontinuity into the history of art by removing from the way art was conceived most of what everyone thought belonged to its essence." (Danto, 2009: 47-48)

"My first paper, 'The Artworld' of 1964, had been an analytical response to an exhibition to which I have often referred, consisting of effigies of Brillo cartons by Andy Warhol, held at the Stable Gallery earlier that year. The question of why these were art while Brillo cartons, which they pretty closely resembled, were not, was the problem that possessed me then. It was clear that the difference between an ordinary Brillo boy and one of Warhol's could not account for the difference between art and reality, and the question was what can." (Danto, 1986: x)

"The art through which Warhol achieved historical importance was internally connected with his candidacy as an American icon. He was able to achieve iconic status because of the content of his art,  which drew directly from, and which indeed celebrated, the form of life lived by Americans, including what Americans ate, and who Americans considered icons in their own right, mainly figures from mass culture, like movies and poular culture. In a way, Warhol transcended his chosen subjects in the eyes of the world." (Danto, Andy Warhol)




"Indeed, one is tempted to raise here - far too prematurely - one of the central issues about postmodernism itself and its possible political dimensions: Andy Warhol's work in fact turns centrally around commodification, and the great billboard images of the Coca-Cola bottle or the Campbell's soup can, which explicitly foreground the commodity fetishism of a transition to late capital, ought to be the powerful and critical political statements. If they are not that, then surely one would want to know why, and one would begin to wonder a little more seriously about the possibilities of political art in the postmodern period of capital."  (Jameson, 1995: 9)



Jacques Rancière, philosopher


"Dadaist canvases had bus tickets, clock springs and other such items stuck on them as a way of ridiculing art's pretensions to separate itself from life. Warhol's introduction of the Brillo soap boxes into the museum worked to denounce great art's claim to seclusion." (Rancière, 2004: 51)



Stephen Koch, author

"Ordinarily when we look at a given image there is a certain passage of time required for primary comprehension. There are five, or maybe fifteen seconds (thirty would be a long time) during which the mind is simply identifying what it is seeing. In Warhol's case time required for recognition is reduced to something instantaneous. We get it, always, right away. I am speaking of the absolute legibility on Duchamp's second path. These are some of the most famous faces in the world, Marilyn and Mao; these are the universal commonplaces of brand names or things universally known: the mushroom cloud, the electric chair. The images are often horrific, as for example the execution chamber in Sing Sing or the torn body dangling from the wrecked car in Saturday Disaster. Whether awful or inane, every image invariably asserts an intense graphic frontally which would hit us smack in the eyes were it not modified by Warhol's counter move against its power, his voyeur's transformation." (Koch, 1991: xiii - xiv)


Van M. Cagle, cultural theorist

"(...) the combination of the banal, commercial content of Warhol's pop art with the underlying philosophy of the Factory (pop art as pop life) began to suggest a rather radical notion: The seeming simplicity of pop, the lack of commitment involved in creating it, its obvious anti-intellectual posturing - 
all of these elements simultaneously created the conditions for pop's 'devious' play on populism.
(...) pop art was democratizing in practice and theory ('everyone is an artist', 'you don't need an education to understand it.'). In addition, pop art ironically exposed the commodity nature of all art. But even more important, pop reserved the traditional role of contemplative viewer who ponders the intentionality of the artistic process. In essence, 
the viewer becomes the 'artist of perception', no longer requiring the guidance of the art historian and the critic. A stark, reproduced image, such as a Coke bottle, could indeed lend itself to a number of 'personalized' interpretations." (Cagle, 1995: 10)