andy warhol


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source: hellowonderland

glasses

Many people think of Warhol as “asexual” and merely a “voyeur”; however, it is now well established that he was gay. The question of how Warhol’s sexuality influenced his work and shaped his relationship to the art world is a major subject of scholarship on the artist, and is an issue that Warhol himself addressed in interviews, in conversation with his contemporaries, and in his publications.

Throughout his career, Warhol produced erotic photography and drawings of male nudes. Many of his most famous works (portraits of Liza Minnelli, Judy Garland, and Elizabeth Taylor, and films like Blow Job, My Hustler, and Lonesome Cowboys) draw from gay underground culture and/or openly explore the complexity of sexuality and desire. Many of his films premiered in gay porn theaters. That said, some stories about Warhol’s development as an artist revolved around the obstacle his sexuality initially presented as he tried to launch his career. The first works that he submitted to a gallery in the pursuit of a career as an artist were homoerotic drawings of male nudes. They were rejected for being too openly gay. In Popism, furthermore, the artist recalls a conversation with the film maker Emile de Antonio about the difficulty Warhol had being accepted socially by the then more famous (but closeted) gay artists Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. De Antonio explained that Warhol was “too swish and that upsets them.”

In response to this, Warhol writes, “There was nothing I could say to that. It was all too true. So I decided I just wasn’t going to care, because those were all the things that I didn’t want to change anyway, that I didn’t think I ‘should’ want to change… Other people could change their attitudes but not me”. In exploring Warhol’s biography, many turn to this period – the late 1950s and early 1960s – as a key moment in the development of his persona. Some have suggested that his frequent refusal to comment on his work, to speak about himself (confining himself in interviews to responses like “Um, No” and “Um, Yes”, and often allowing others to speak for him), and even the evolution of his Pop style can be traced to the years when Warhol was first dismissed by the inner circles of the New York art world.

religious beliefs

Warhol made almost 100 variations on the theme, which the Guggenheim felt “indicates an almost obsessive investment in the subject matter.” Warhol was a practicing Byzantine Catholic. He regularly volunteered at homeless shelters in New York, particularly during the busier times of the year, and described himself as a religious person. Several of Warhol’s later works depicted religious subjects, including two series, Details of Renaissance Paintings (1984) and The Last Supper (1986). In addition, a body of religious-themed works was found posthumously in his estate. During his life, Warhol regularly attended Mass, and the priest at Warhol’s church, Saint Vincent’s, said that the artist went there almost daily. His art is noticeably influenced by the eastern Christian iconographic tradition which was so evident in his places of worship. Warhol’s brother has described the artist as “really religious, but he didn’t want people to know about that because [it was] private.” Despite the private nature of his faith, in Warhol’s eulogy John Richardson depicted it as devout: “To my certain knowledge, he was responsible for at least one conversion. He took considerable pride in financing his nephew’s studies for the priesthood.”

death

Warhol died in New York City at 6:32 a.m. on February 22, 1987. According to news reports, he had been making good recovery from a routine gallbladder surgery at New York Hospital before dying in his sleep from a sudden post-operative cardiac arrhythmia. Prior to his diagnosis and operation, Warhol delayed having his recurring gallbladder problems checked, as he was afraid to enter hospitals and see doctors. His family sued the hospital for unadequate care, telling cardiac arrhythmia was provoked for hyperhydration. Warhol’s grave at St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cemetery

Warhol’s body was taken back to Pittsburgh by his brothers for burial. Warhol wore a black cashmere suit, a paisley tie, a platinum wig, and sunglasses. He was holding a small prayer book and a red rose. The eulogy was given by Monsignor Peter Tay and Yoko Ono also made an appearance. The coffin was covered with white roses and asparagus ferns. Before the coffin was lowered, Paige Powell dropped a copy of Interview magazine, an Interview t-shirt, and a bottle of the Estee Lauder perfume “Beautiful” into the grave. Warhol was buried next to his mother and father. Weeks later a memorial service was held in Manhattan for Warhol on April 1, 1987 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York.

Warhol’s will dictated that his entire estate, with the exception of a few modest legacies to family members, would go to create a foundation dedicated to the “advancement of the visual arts”. Warhol had so many possessions that it took Sotheby’s nine days to auction his estate after his death; the auction grossed more than US$20 million. In 1987, in accordance with Warhol’s will, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts was founded. The Foundation not only serves as the official Estate of Andy Warhol, but it also has a mission “to foster innovative artistic expression and the creative process” and is “focused primarily on supporting work of a challenging and often experimental nature.”

The Andy Warhol Foundation released its 20th Anniversary Annual Report as a three-volume set in 2007: Vol. I, 1987–2007; Vol. II, Grants & Exhibitions; and Vol. III, Legacy Program. The Foundation remains one of the largest grant-giving organizations for the visual arts in the U.S.

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