Interesting Trivia Facts About Andy Warhol

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Andy Warhol was a pioneering artist who is generally considered to be one of the fathers of modern art. The Pop Art movement for which he is known has divided critics and art lovers alike who clash over its merits, its message, and whether it can ever truly be called art. Warhol’s paintings of Marilyn Monroe, Campbell’s soup cans, and a single, solitary banana are some of the most iconic and instantly recognizable images in the world.

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As well as his paintings, Warhol produced and directed various films that challenged the audience to question their preconceptions and pushed the boundaries between art, sexuality, and culture. Warhol was something of an enigma, portraying a public persona to the press, which was different from the man that was recognized by those who knew him. Though Andy Warhol died in 1987, his legacy lives on through his works. Warhol lived a fascinating life and to help art lovers to understand him better, here are some interesting trivia facts about him.

1. Andy Warhol’s Real Name was Andrew Warhola
Andy Warhol was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but his real name was Andrew Warhola. Warhol’s parents were immigrants who had come to America from a place called Miko in the former Austrian- Hungarian Empire which is now in modern-day Slovakia. His father’s name was Ondrej Warhola which he Americanized to Andrew Warhola Sr as was a common thing for immigrants to do after settling in the US. Andrew Warhola Jr became known as Andy Warhol after one of his early illustrations in Glamour Magazine, “Success in a Job in New York”, was mistakenly credited to Andy Warhol, a name which he decided to use from then on.

2. Very Few People Knew Warhol’s Real Age
Andy Warhol was born on August 6, 1928, but he was very secretive about his true age. He would often lie about his age and give conflicting accounts of his birthplace and date when asked in interviews. The art critic Gene Swenson, for example, reported that Warhol was born in Philadelphia in 1931, however, Rainer Crone, who is credited for compiling Warhol’s first catalog raisonné, believed him to have been born in October 1930. It is not known for sure exactly why Warhol would lie so incessantly about his age other than that he made great efforts his whole adult life to distance himself from his origins. Warhol did not feel any attachment to his roots and barely visited Pittsburgh again after he left for New York. Pittsburgh was seen as the archetypal blue-collar industrial city, and Warhol never found any connection to the place.

3. As a child, Warhol contracted St. Vitus’s Disease
St. Vitus’s Disease, medically known as Sydenham’s chorea is a disease that affects the nervous system which causes rapid jerking movements in the patient’s hands, feet, and face. Warhol contracted the disease when he was in the third grade, which left him confined to his bed for weeks on end. During this time, which Warhol later called his “first nervous breakdown”, he would listen to the radio and draw pictures of movie stars that he would collect. Warhol described these difficult times as being very important in his development personally and artistically.

4. Warhol’s Most Expensive Piece Ever Was Sold for $105 Million
Warhol’s artwork is famous all over the world, even 33 years after his death. Whilst adding a Warhol to your collection is as desirable today as ever, those who want to buy Andy Warhol art need some serious money in order to do so. It may surprise some people to learn that Warhol’s most expensive piece of art ever sold is not one of his most recognizable. Whilst his iconic portrait of “Turquoise Marilyn” fetched a cool $80 million and his famous “Eight Elvises” racked up a respectable $100 million, it is his 1963 serigraph “Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster)”, which takes the top spot in the list of Warhol’s most expensive works. Bought at auction at Sotheby’s in 2013 by an unknown buyer who outbid four others, the painting was sold for $105 million.

5. Warhol’s Factory Wasn’t Just One Studio
It is a common misconception that the “Factory” studio was one location where Warhol created all his art, but actually, there were different Factories in various places during Warhol’s life. The original Factory, often called the Silver Factory, was located on East 47th Street in Manhattan, but there were various other factories in New York where Warhol made his art later in his career. As well as these studios, there were various other theaters and playhouses such as the Garrick Cinema and the 55th Street Cinema where he made his films. His original Silver Factory was so named because it was completely decked out in silver by Billy Name whose own apartment had inspired Warhol when he visited it to attend a party. Many people who knew Warhol during his life claim that Warhol was like a king when he was in the Factory and that he would play his friends, or so-called “subjects”, off against one another. It is said that Warhol would have his favorites, but that they could unexpectedly lose his favor at any time, at which point they would be cast off, in some cases forever. This erratic behavior possibly had something to do with the complexities of Warhol’s personality, mania, and insecurity, as well as the extent of the drug use which went on at the Factory and among Warhol’s associates.

6. Warhol was Openly Gay but also Identified as Celibate
Warhol lived openly as a homosexual before the gay liberation movement had started to make any progress in America, but at other times, described himself as being celibate and a virgin. One interviewer in 1980 whom Warhol told he was a virgin concluded that he appeared to be telling the truth and suggested that Warhol was a sexual voyeur rather than a physical participant. Both this and Warhol’s assertion that he was a virgin are disputed by various past lovers of Warhol’s who said that he was an extremely sexual person as well as being cast in doubt by the fact that Warhol was treated for a sexually transmitted disease in 1960. The extent to which Warhol’s sexuality influenced his work is very important as Warhol was producing and submitting highly erotic work at a time when many gay artists who were his contemporaries had yet to publicly announce their sexuality. Warhol’s first attempt at submitting art to a fine art gallery were drawings of nude males, which were rejected for being too flagrantly homosexual. Warhol was undeterred and homosexual themes and influenced purveyed much of his work with many of his films premiering in gay adult theaters.

7. Warhol had a Group of Celebrity Friends Known as “Warhol Superstars”
There were a huge number of celebrities who hung around Warhol and in his Factory, which included artists, musicians, actors, models, and photographers. This group of famous creative became known in the press as “Warhol Superstars” whose names became associated with Andy Warhol and whose various careers he promoted. It was a reciprocal relationship between Warhol and his superstars as they would help to promote his projects and they would gain fame and fortune through his promotion. Warhol was always fascinated by fame and drawn to the world of celebrities, even famously saying, “In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes”, which is where the expression “fifteen minutes of fame” comes from. Warhol would feature many of the Warhol Superstars in his films, becoming particularly fascinated in his work with trans women and drag queens. Many of this creative circle were Hollywood misfits or had unique personalities and talents, and almost all had serious addictions to drugs. One of Warhol’s most famous superstars was Edie Sedgwick, a wealthy socialite, and model, who Warhol featured in starring roles in many of his films. There are many who believe that Bob Dylan’s famous song “Like a Rolling Stone” is an attack on Warhol for his treatment of Sedgwick and his encouragement of her drug-taking.

8. Warhol was pivotal in the early days of The Velvet Underground
The Velvet Underground was introduced to Andy Warhol in 1965 and he took over management of the group which greatly helped to raise their profile. With Warhol’s influence, they secured a record deal with Verve Records, with Warhol telling the Verve’s mother company he would produce their first album himself, whilst giving the band the freedom to do whatever they wanted. The band’s first album was called The Velvet Underground and Nico and featured guest lyrics by Nico, one of the Warhol Superstars, as well as a famous album cover with a peelable banana design created by Warhol. Warhol and the band also collaborated on Warhol’s experimental multimedia show “Exploding Plastic Inevitable” which mixed Warhol’s films with The Velvet Underground’s music. The Velvet Underground and Nico were a commercial failure, selling only 30,000 copies on its original release and causing various controversies and legal challenges. In later years, however, the album has seen a total reversal of public and critical opinion, influencing many later musical acts, and being named at number 13 on the list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” by Rolling Stone Magazine.

9. Warhol was known by his musical friends as “Drella”
Many of Warhol’s musical friends referred to him by the nickname “Drella”, which was a combination of the names of the two characters Dracula and Cinderella. The sobriquet was reportedly given to Warhol by one of the Warhol Superstars, an actor called Ondine, who said that the name suited Warhol’s personality. During the day, he is introverted and elusive, shut up like Dracula, romantically and passionately dedicated to his work; at night, he emerges, a glamorous princess who is always the belle of the ball. The Velvet Underground released an album entitled Songs for Drella paying homage to Warhol after he died. The album was originally intended to be a theater piece and still retains that biographical structure, with each song on the album chronologically representing a period in Warhol’s life.

10. Warhol was a practicing Byzantine Catholic
Because of his sexuality and celebrity lifestyle, it is perhaps a surprising fact to some people that Andy Warhol was very religious. Raised by his Eastern European parents as a Byzantine Catholic (also called a Ruthenian Catholic in Europe), Warhol attended church regularly, at times almost daily, for much of his life. Whilst being devoutly religious, Warhol was also very private about his religion, and would usually sit unnoticed at the back of the church and rarely talked about his faith. Despite this, however, Warhol volunteered at a number of homeless shelters and funded his nephew’s studies in the priesthood.

11. Warhol survived a murder attempt in 1968
On June 3rd, 1968, Valeria Solanos shot Andy Warhol and his friend Maria Amayo at Warhol’s studio. Solanos had been a member of the Factory clique but was angered when she was refused entry to the Factory to get back a script she had given to Warhol. Warhol was severely injured and needed critical surgery to save him from death. Solanos was later diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and sentenced to three years of detention. The attack had a huge impact on Warhol, who described being shot as like watching it happen to himself on TV. After the incident, the security at Warhol’s Factory was greatly increased with many people attributing this to the end of what had been the golden years.

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Andy Warhol was a fascinating character whose art and films challenged beliefs, stereotypes, form, and genre in a way that had never been seen before. His enigmatic personality drew creative people around him and his influence and force of character made a permanent mark on so many people’s lives. The Pop Art movement was both a catalyst and a reflection of what was happening culturally in New York and the rest of the country during Warhol’s life and its unique appeal remains today. Truly one of the greats, Andy Warhol’s legacy remains unquestionable in the history of art and popular culture.

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Interesting Trivia Facts About Andy Warhol
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Andy Warhol was a pioneering artist who is generally considered to be one of the fathers of modern art.
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