Andy Warhol did what all people who conquer NYC do, he dictated the terms of his engagement with it’s movers and shakers, artists and its teeming millions. And once he did that people were forced to engage with what was the status quo and how he and his art varied from it so comprehensively. He invented Pop Art which was a process of throwing the status quo into stark relief and making us notice it without our eyes glazing over.
NYC has always been hugely apprecaitive of consumate showmanship, so naturally NYC fell at his feet when everything he did shocked everyone sideways. He did not so much create art as use the texture of his NYC life from 1949 when he first arrived to 1987 to when he died, as art. He became a force; to be associated with him however distantly, gave people incredible prominence because he himself was so hard to know. Except of course through his paintings, films, videos, writing, social life and friendships. Everything he did spoke loudly while he himself rarely explained and spoke softly.
He re-invented celebrity making it more of a 2 way street than it had ever been before. His famous paintings of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presely and Elizabeth Taylor made people notice powerfully that celebrities are objects created by the public as well as being stars and finally somewhere in the background and completely unknown to us, real people. Without him Jay-Z and Taylor Swift would engage with us very differently and we with them. These days it’s called branding and packaging, but Warhol made us aware of our own complicity in how it wroks.
That is why his influence has had such staying power. While other very talented New Yorkers at the time, such as Truman Capote, are honored for their historical influence Warhol is celebrated for his enduring influence. Warhol took Marilyn Monroe and immortalized her in a way she could not do for herself by making her a different kind of art.
Go and see his work at MOMA, the Whitney, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim. And then when you emerge try and imagine NYC without his contribution. An old master draws us into a vision. Warhol makes us notice how we create NYC and that is an extraordinary thing to do.