Contemporary Pop-Culture Phenomena Andy Warhol Would Love


If Andy Warhol were still alive in 2011, tomorrow would be his 83rd birthday. Although he’s been gone for over 25 years now, it seems his influential pop sensibility only grows more relevant as the years go on. With that in mind, we’ve attempted to identify ten contemporary pop-culture phenomena that would entertain, fascinate, and delight one of art’s greatest enigmas. As with Warhol’s body of work, we love some of these people and things, while others simply frustrate us. Read through our list after the jump and let us know if you agree.

Reality TV

The go-to quote here, of course, is Warhol’s most famous: “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” Although the 21st century’s most popular TV genre has given us more than its share of insta-celebrities, we think something else Warhol said better expresses his experience of life and television as being the same thing: “Before I was shot, I always thought that I was more half-there than all-there — I always suspected that I was watching TV instead of living life. Right when I was being shot and ever since, I knew that I was watching television.” We imagine he’d be especially thrilled about Bravo’s Work of Art, which has done nearly as much to commercialized the art-making process as Warhol himself.

The Internet

While we can’t see him up late on 4chan, we do think Warhol would completely understand the appeal of internet culture, and especially virtual communities like Second Life and He may have once diagnosed his need to go out every night as a “Social Disease,” but we’re fascinated by the following quote: “I’m the type who’d be happy not going anywhere as long as I was sure I knew exactly what was happening at the places I wasn’t going to. I’m the type who’d like to sit home and watch every party that I’m invited to on a monitor in my bedroom.” Uh, did Warhol predict YouTube and live streaming and Foursquare and Last Night’s Party all at once?

Mr. Brainwash

Banksy may be both entertained and disturbed by the success of Exit Through the Gift Shop star Mr. Brainwash (that is, if he didn’t make him up, and it kind of looks like he didn’t), but Warhol would have loved it. As a master appropriator of pop-culture symbols, he wouldn’t worry about the self-styled street artist’s derivative approach, especially since it’s been so lucrative. Warhol is, after all, the man who once said, “Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.”

Famous heiresses

Like it or not, famous-for-being-famous types like Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian would be the Warhol Superstars of 2011. While they may have known more about art (and also, probably, drugs) than your average Tinsley Mortimer, the ladies of Warhol’s Factory, from Baby Jane Holzer to Edie Sedgwick to Brigid Berlin, were mostly society girls. He didn’t succeed in turning any of them into mainstream movie stars, so we think he’d be thrilled to see that these days, scads of glamorous heiresses with no discernible talents have become household names.

Photo credit: Devin Elijah

Mx. Justin Vivian Bond

If the biological women in Warhol’s circle were heiresses, then those born with XY chromosomes came in two types: the twinkish young things who looked so all-American they were almost kitschy and the drag queens and transwomen. In the ’60s, transgender Superstars like Candy Darling were at the front lines of the war to redefine gender; these days, the fight is in the hands of people like Justin Vivian Bond, a captivating, radical performer who is defining v’s (Bond’s pronoun of choice) own identity. “I used to refer to myself as a ‘non-op transexual, meaning I was a transexual who didn’t need to have surgery to assert what I was,” writes Bond. “But I was wrong because without assertions people can only make assumptions and I no longer wish to indulge or refute the assumptions or labels other people choose to place on me, I simply want to inhabit my very clear vision of myself.” We think Warhol would have been fascinated.

Lady Gaga

Gaga has always claimed Warhol as a major influence — but last fall, the Guardian reported that she had gone even farther, citing a source who said, “She’s been saying that she’s in touch with the spirit of Andy Warhol… She sits and talks to him for hours, as if he’s in the room with her. She says he tells her what to wear.” Although we’re not big believers in communication with the dead, we believe Yoko Ono when she says that Gaga is indirectly a Warhol creation: “He was actually predicting something like Lady Gaga, you know, the costumes and all that. He said, ‘You should do that,’ but I said, ‘Well I’m an activist and I’m not going to do that.’ I was in a different mood then,” Ono told the New York Post last year.

Terry Richardson

Warhol is known for saying, “My idea of a good picture is one that’s in focus and of a famous person.” As far as we’re concerned, that’s about all most of recent Gaga collaborator Richardson’s photos have going for them.

Image via

“Emerging adulthood”

We first heard this term in an incredibly condescending article The New York Times published last fall about WTF is going on with 20-somethings — you know, us supposedly delicate, immature babes in the woods who aren’t getting jobs in America’s depressed economy. It refers to that time between college and marriage/career success when young adults continue to rely on their parents financially. Whether this period truly exists as a developmental stage or is more accurately a luxury afforded to grads who come from indulgent, well-off families, we should give Warhol credit for having predicted it. “Since people are going to be living longer and getting older, they’ll just have to learn how to be babies longer,” he wrote in his book, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol.

Literary hoaxes

Warhol once said, “Art is what you can get away with.” And in the past several years, fudged memoirs like James Frey’s Oprah-magnified debacle and Herman Rosenblat’s faux Holocaust love story, along with authors who have actually turned out to be fictional creations themselves (such as JT LeRoy, pictured above), have been ubiquitous. Between his love for beautiful fakes and his well-documented enjoyment of supermarket tabloids, we think few people would appreciate a literary hoax more than Andy.

Ryan Trecartin

He may have more obvious heirs in the 21st century, but if Andy Warhol were alive today, we think Trecartin would be one of his favorite artists. Warhol was always a sucker for a shiny surface, and Trecartin’s videos certainly deliver that. On a deeper layer, their obsession with mass, teen, and celebrity culture is similar to Warhol’s own. Both artists hold up a mirror to the commercial and entertainment worlds; although the reflections they produce tend to be distorted, Trecartin and Warhol both seem to enjoy the pop world too much to outright condemn it.