Andy Warhol, the controversial pop artist who rose to icon status in the 1960s, challenged the definition of art with his silkscreen paintings of celebrities, advertisements and utilitarian objects, such as his famous cans of Campbell's Soup. Both in his subject matter and artistic process, usually silkscreen printing which was akin to a type of manufacturing, Warhol gained devoted fans and vitriolic critics. His position as a controversial character, turning the fabric of American consumer culture into the stuff of art, has sealed his position as one of the most popular artists of the twentieth century.
Warhol was born in Pittsburgh in 1928, the son of immigrant parents who came to America from Czechoslovakia. He was a sickly child who often spent long periods of time home from school in bed. Warhol later described this period of his life as foundational to the development of his personality and to his interest in art. As a young adult, Warhol studied commercial art at the School of Fine Arts in Pittsburgh, before moving to New York City in 1949 where he worked as a magazine illustrator and advertisement designer.
During the 1960s, Warhol associated with a motley crowd of artists, musicians and celebrities who gained a reputation for their eccentric behavior and wild parties. Warhol hired a number of assistants who helped him with the screen printing process, increasing his output and adding another degree of separation between himself and his art. Popular culture fascinated Warhol and the manner in which he produced his art mirrored popular culture's ubiquitous appeal. He, perhaps more than any other artist of the twentieth century, expressed his particular vision of what art should be and what it should accomplish, through his artistic methods. Although Warhol often spoke about art, his statements were usually tongue-incheek, ambiguous and provocative, such as his declaration that ''Commercial things really do stink. As soon as it becomes commercial for a mass market it really stinks.'' And conversely, ''Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.'' In 1964, Warhol confronted the New York public with his involvement in the exhibition ''The American Supermarket'', held at Paul Bianchini's gallery on the Upper East Side. The show featured six pop artists who created all of the accoutrements of a supermarket, complete with cans, produce, bread and meat products. Warhol sold his painting of a can of Campbell's Soup for $1,500.
Warhol enjoyed ongoing popularity throughout his career, continuing to cut a highprofile image across New York's hip, social scene. He shunned media attention and rarely commented on his art or popularity, sometimes issuing cryptic statements, such as his prophetic phrase, ''In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.'' Warhol died of complications stemming from gallbladder surgery in New York in 1987.