Guy Peellaert, The Michelangelo of Pop Art

Guy Peellaert, a major European Pop artist, died last week. The Brussels-born artist Guy Peellaert was a painter, illustrator, graphic artist and photographer, whose work has been exhibited around the world. He made his debut as a theatre decorator and as a comic strip artist and was one of the first artists to embrace the Pop Art movement that began in the late 1950s. Peellaert made no distinction between high art and low art. He approached the pop culture and mythology as a true fan. His style was influenced by comics, American Pop Art and psychedelic art. He painted using a very photo-realistic style and collage techniques. In 1974, Elle magazine called him the “the Michelangelo of Pop”.

“Tina Turner” by Guy Peellaert

Peellaert was born in Brussels in 1934 into an aristocratic family. He left home at an early age, and for many years refused to have any contact with his father. As a teenager, he studied fine arts in the Belgian capital and found refuge in the music of Nat King Cole, George Gershwin and Duke Ellington. He also devoured Amercian and British pop culture, film noir and pulp literature. Just as his example, the Britsih Pop artist Peter Blake, Peellaert hoarded and archived music magazines, books and pop memorabilia. He was one of the very first comic artists to process pop-art influences in his stories. His first comic strip, “Les Aventures de Jodelle”, was published in 1966. The psychedelic cartoon character Jodelle was inspired by he French popstar Sylvie Vartan. Peellart’s second comic strip heroine, “Pravda, La Survireuse”, made her debut in 1968 and was a brunette modelled on the chanteuse Françoise Hardy.

“Pravda & Coca-Cola”, limited edition silkprints by Guy Peellaert.

Rolling Stone Mick Jagger, one of the proud owners of Peellaert’s art.

In the late Sixties, Peellaert moved to Paris, where he worked variously in advertising, set design for the casino and the Crazy Horse nightclub, film and television. He also published a couple of experimental books, “Carashi!”, which consisted of redesigned photos, and “Bye, bye, bye Baby, bye, bye’”, which used a hyper-realistic style.
Peellaert quickly became a popular chronicler of rock and roll. He created amazing tableaux featuring rock luminaries in paintings that captured their personae in a way that photos never could. His paintings tapped right into our subconscious fantasies of rock stars’ secret selves & lives and earned him international cult status.

“Jimi Hendrix” by Guy Peellaert

Peellaert’s work became very visible in the 1970s, especially his book of rock star portraits “Rock Dreams”, created together with British rock writer Nik Cohn. With its fantastical and iconic images of the giants of rock and roll, the book served as a record of rock’s golden years. In a series of 125 paintings, Peellaert painted his heroes in situations echoing their mythical status or playing on their most famous lyrics. “Rock Dreams”, created together with British rock writer Nik Cohn. Published in 1974, the book had a huge impact when it was first published and went on to sell more than one million copies worldwide and established Peellaert as a major international artist. Many of the original artworks were bought by Jack Nicholson. John Lennon framed the cover of the book, which depicted him sitting at a lunch-counter with Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger.

“Elvis Presley’s Last Supper” with guests Cliff Richard, Tom Jones and Eddie Cochran, feasting on burgers and drinking Coca-Cola.

“Frank Sinatra” – Peellaert pictured Sinatra as a newspaper cutting. The “Frankie Goes Hollywood” headline later inspired singer Holly Johnson for the name of his band, Frankie Goes To Hollywood.

“The Beatles”, the Fab Four chased by a bobby in the streets of Liverpool.


“Otis Redding” by Guy Peellaert

“Superstar Bob”, Bob Dylan in the back of a limousine.

“The Velvet Underground” by Guy Peellaert

“Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young” by Guy Peellaert

Soon after the success of “Rock Dreams”, Peellaert created the cover of The Rolling Stones album “It’s Only Rock ’n’ Roll”, David Bowie’s “Diamond Dogs”. Many people know these classic album sleeves even if they don’t recognize the name of the artist who painted it.

“It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll”, Album cover art for The Rolling Stones by Guy Peellaert.

“Diamond Dogs” artwork for David Bowie.

Peellaert also designed striking posters for a number of iconic films, including Wenders “Paris, Texas” and “Wings of Desire” and Robert Altman’s Short Cuts. His most famous film poster design is probably the one he did for Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver.

In the eighties, Guy Peellaert embarked on an extensive project with the American author Michael Herr, “The Big Room”, a homage to Las Vegas which conceived the city, in Peelleart’s words, as “a big hotel lounge where everybody comes in, out, with their luggage, their problems and their dreams”. It would take 11 years to complete. In 1999, Peellaert and Cohn teamed up again for “20th Century Dreams”, a surrealistic “alternative history” of the 20th century.

“Little Mockstory” – Elvis Presley in police uniform busting through the dormitory door of a pot-smoking Bill Clinton.

“La Bonne Trajectoire”. Genius Albert Eintein shows baseball legend Babe Ruth the perfect swing.

“Caesar’s Palace” – Famous painting of boxer Muhammad Ali, preparing for a title fight.

Guy Peellaert lost his own fight with cancer this week, he died on November 17th, 2008 in Paris aged 74. In 2003, Peellaert told Beaux Arts Magazine: “I’m not bothered about death. Not having any passion while you’re alive, that’s the terrible thing. That’s why “Rock Dreams” still works today. Emotions keep you alive. Rock will always represent the extravagant, the flashy, the fantasy. These pictures are a memento to that dream.”

For a complete overview of Peellaert’s work, exhibitions and bio, you can visit his website.

“Andy Mouse – New Coke” by Keith Haring, A Tribute to Andy Warhol, Mickey Mouse & Coca-Cola

“When I want to Keith Haring’s studio, I saw genius. I saw someone with a signature style – a style he seemed to be born with. Haring seemed to me to be like Andy Warhol, someone who knew that what he was doing was important, and he didn’t care if he worked fourteen or sixteen hours a day. His work was his entire world”.
(Henry Geldzahler about Keith Haring; “Keith Haring – The Authorized Biography” by John Gruen, A Fireside Book, 1991).

Pop artist and icon Keith Haring, much like his artistic idol Andy Warhol, used bright colors, bold lines and simple subject matters. He developed a unique visual lexicon. Essential concepts (birth, death, love, and war) were conveyed by the simplest of symbols: energy, waves, hearts, glowing babies (his most famous life giving symbol), barking dogs, and antic “everyman” figures.

Urban street culture became a defining influence on art, fashion, and music of the 1980’s, in particular in New York. Keith Haring was preeminent among the young artists, filmmakers, performers, and musicians whose work responded to these impulses and helped shape the culture of that decade.
Haring’s phenomenal rise from a talented graffiti artist, whose “radiant baby” became a worldwide symbol of 1980s pop culture, remains arguably as relevant today as when it was created despite being universally recognized as representative of that era. Painting with artistic and childlike exuberance, his talent was first recognized on subway platforms where he drew his trademark chalk figures and murals for all of New York to see. “When I did a drawing and went back a week later, the drawing was still there. It was neither smudged nor did anyone try to clean it off. I mean, it seemed to have this protective power that prevented people from destroying them. Another thing that I realized how many people were seeing these things. Within a week, when I’d be doing another drawing, people would come up to me and say, “So you’re the guy who did these drawings!” Because, see, there was never a signature. Nobody knew who was doing this stuff. And I started to realize the power and the potential of what I was doing.”

“It’s treating Warhol like he was part of American culture, like Mickey Mouse was.”
(Daniel Drenger, “Art and Life: An Interview with Keith Haring,” Columbia Art Review, Spring 1988).

Executed in 1985, and painted during an extremely fertile time for Keith Haring, Andy Mouse pays tribute to his close friend, hero and mentor, Andy Warhol, to whom Haring was introduced following his second exhibition in New York at the Tony Shafrazi Gallery in 1984. This historic encounter between Warhol and Haring brought together their mutual fascination with an “Art for Everybody,” and an admiration for Walt Disney, a man who inspired both artists. A friendship that developed almost immediately, Haring often visited Andy at the Factory and would trade works with him. Drawing on Warhol’s legacy, and similar to Disney, Haring created a world for both adults and children, in which art became a visual vocabulary and one that could be shared with everyone, as seen here on the animated canvas of Andy Mouse. Believing that cartoon figures could be an component of fine art, and regarding Andy Warhol and Walt Disney as heroes, Haring’s exuberant and enchanting Andy Mouse bonded together the work of these three significant artists.

Adaptating of one the most internationally recognized and celebrated cartoon characters, Haring presents the viewer with his hybrid Andy Mouse cartoon against the backdrop of a New Coke label; the product introduced the same year Andy Mouse was executed. This large-scale piece, evoking his wall drawings and subway posters, skillfully combines three different symbols of commerce: Coca-Cola, Mickey Mouse and Andy Warhol – with a deceptively simple palette of red, yellow, white and black, reintroducing the commercial colors of 1960s Pop Art.

Monumental in scale, Andy Mouse originated from a new body of work in which Haring focused on his passion for both drawing and mass production. Sharing with Warhol an understanding of the effect of mass media’s visual dynamics, Haring intuitively understood that good mass media imagery could be seen at any size and still make a strong visual impact. The use of scale that typifies mass media imagery is atypical of fine art, yet it runs through most of Haring’s art and appears as a common thread amongst his works.

Unlike the black line Haring frequently drew to define space in his work, the caricature of Andy Mouse is framed by the hard-edged white line of the New Coke label. By appropriating this brand logo and combining it with the repetitive use of the dollar sign, Haring brilliantly manipulates the concept of Pop into his own unique hand- drawn style.
Both Haring and Warhol liked Coca-Cola a lot. Warhol once described Coca-Cola, often served at Haring’s openings, as a highlight of democratic equality. Swept up into the Pop Art scene himself and endeavoring to present iconic images in a hand-crafted way, Haring blends this classic symbol of American mass culture into his own hand- painted canvas in a playful and energetic way.

Andy Mouse is a brilliant culmination of Haring’s entire oeuvre. Its bold graphic quality, complex composition and glorious color are high water marks for the artist. Andy Mouse’s large scale and brilliant postmodern referencing of Pop icons such as Coke and Mickey Mouse – by way of Andy Warhol – mark this as a seminal Haring work which remains relevant to contemporary art today.

By the time that Haring (1958-1990), a major supporter of good causes and Aids research and awareness, died at age 31, his work had moved from underground New York to the most prestigious galleries and museums around the world. Just like his hero Andy Warhol, Keith Haring has left a huge impact on the Pop Art culture world. Even though the master behind the creations has gone nearly two decades ago, Keith Haring’s art and messages are still alive.

Sources: Keith Haring, exhibition catalogue, Dexia Banque Int. à Luxembourg, 2007; Keith Haring, exhibition catalogue, Musée Art Contemporain Lyon, 2008; Christies auction catalogue, 2008; The Authorized Biography” by John Gruen, A Fireside Book, 1991.

The Enduring Fame of Andy Warhol

Warhol’s influence on society has steadily grown in the two decades since his death in 1987 and has yet not reached its zenith. Warhol’s ideas were “far out” during his lifetime but are coming more and more to resemble life as we know it. Over the course of 30 years, more and more people have understood that Warhol’s
art opened up opened up a territory as large as the world itself: a large and fascinating universe including Hollywood stars, Coca-Cola bottles, underground movies and music, mysteries and terrors, humor and wit.

Tom Armstrong, the first director of Pittsburgh’s Warhol museum, describes the “Pope of Pop” as a key figure in contemporary culture: “More than any other figure of his time, Warhol challenged our way of thinking about art. Andy was a painter, a sculptor, a graphic artist, a filmmaker, a music producer, an author, a publisher. The scope of his creative activity was extraordinary and it touched on the entire range of popular culture”.

In the foreword of the book “Andy Warhol Portraits”, American art historian and curator Robert Rosenblum stated that this was only the beginning of the story: “Warhol quickly emerged as a leader of the Pop Art movement. His work provided an instantly intelligible chronicle of what mattered most to people, from the dead of Marilyn Monroe to the ascendancy of Red China.”
Rosenblum compares Warhol’s art to a March of Time newsreel: “An abbreviated visual anthology of the most conspicuous headlines, mythic creatures, personalities, movie and music stars, tragedies, artworks, even ecological problems of recent decades. Everything and everybody is here – with infinitely more speed and wallop than a complete run of New York Times on microfilm: airplane crashes and volcanic eruptions, electric chairs, President Nixon, and the Thirteen Most Wanted Men, giant pandas, the hammer-and-sickle, transvestites, Santa Claus and Raphael’s Sistine Madonna”.

Warhol’s greatest gift was probably his observational ability. From his ubercool stance as the silent watcher, Warhol took it all in and saw it for how it truly was.
Warhol’s art reflected the contemporary culture of the United States, and therefore of a world culture that was coming more and more under the American influence. He addressed the changes brought about in our society through mass productions and mass communications in a way that was daring and yet instantly accessible.
By creating artworks inspired by consumer goods as Coca-Cola bottles, Heinz boxes or Campbell’s Soup cans, Warhol presented the world with genuine philosophical challenges.

For the first time in ages, painting was addressing the world at large, and the world knew it was being addressed. But there was a second level to the mass media controversy: not what Warhol painted, but how. Some of his first Pop artworks were made by hand and showed evidence of great skill.

In his later works, Warhol’s hand became less evident. To produce his pictures of Marilyn and Elvis, he made silkscreens print of photographs, which he colored with the aid of stencils. This method offended art critics who wanted to see traces of the artist’s personality on the canvas, or proof of his hard work. But that objection seemed to miss the point.

Warhol had adopted the methods of mass production to make images of celebrities who were themselves mass produced. Marilyn Monroe existed not only as a flesh-and-blood person but as millions of pictures in magazines and newspapers, on album covers, movie screens and film posters. She was infinitely reproducible.

Warhol also understood America’s fascination with celebrity. The “celebrity concept” had an incredible impact on American culture and it quickly became the N°1 topic for Warhol and the Pop Art movement. By becoming a true celebrity himself, something that hadn’t been done before by any US artists, Warhol invented a new approach to America’s fascination with fame.
Andy Warhol’s life is a great example of somebody who courted fame and publicity, achieved it, yet never really gave much away about his “real” personality. Just as is the case with Coca-Cola’s secret formula, the public was really fascinated by the high level of secrecy Warhol managed to surround himself with.

Warhol had been obsessed with fame ever since his childhood when he collected autographs from stars, but what fascinated him the most about the subject was the difference between truth and reality in the world of Hollywood. Warhol subscribed to the postmodern concept of truth as a subjective value and adored the tabloids. In his book “The Philosophy of Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again”, Warhol talks a lot about fame: “A good reason for being famous is so you can read all the big magazines and know everybody in all the stories.”
Warhol even created his own magazine in 1969, Interview, which he claimed he started so that he and his friends would always be invited to the movie premieres and best parties. And of course, starstruck as he was, Warhol always liked to hang around with the popsingers, actors & actresses or other superstars.

Warhol’s most famous quotes are on the subject of fame and the fifteen minutes he felt everyone would get. When he made this statement, it may have sounded like a throwaway soundbite but fact is that in today’s world of cross-genre multi-media, obsessive celebrity madness, reality TV with it’s non-stop “new star” bombardments, Warhol’s philosophy has never been so closely felt.

Andy Warhol’s 15 minutes of fame run on …

Coca-Cola Pop Art Gallery: John Clem Clarke

During the second half of the twentieth century, popular culture and the mass media gained a huge significance in American culture. Pop art that was a sign of the times: a product, a tribute to art history and critique of the social situation.
In the sixties, the New York art scene was very diverse, with people coming from different places, backgrounds and art disciplines & movements. The young John Clem Clarke was always fascinated art & advertising. He moved to New York, started painting and quickly made a name in the NYC pop art scene. Art about art is a continuous thread through Clarke’s work. His series re-working the Old Masters, such as Velasquez’s “Las Meninas” and Rembrandt’s “Night Watch” are popular icons of the late 60’s.
Clarke’s works, a mix of photo-realism and comic style with a pop art imagery. hang today in major museums as NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art & Whitney Museum of American Art, Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, LA’s County Museum and Washington’s Hirshhorn Museum.

Clarke works in the pop art tradition of Andy Warhol, Jim Dine, Roy Liechtenstein & Tom Wesselmann, drawn on the graphic vocabularies of commercial modernity: “I play back and forth using unique objects and a mass-produced presentation style. You might say that ideas I express are a lot more complex than the apparently simple style I use to express them”.
Speed is vital to the freshness of John Clem Clarke’s works, and animation is the key to his style. Every line is alive, no edge is ever straight. The large size of his artworks plays an important role in the transformation of Clarke’s illustration-based style into high art.
Working on big size canvasses, his work is quite technical. The last years he uses a computer for the design phase, but before he had to work out all specific details as a sketch, use an overhead projector to project this sketches on a canvas, drew the projected image and finally paint it.” His way of working is very similar to the work of illustrators of comics or how graphic designers work today in Photoshop. Clarke: “My first layer was always the black outline. Then I painted a colored layer underneath using the line drawing as an overlay. This is the same technique Disney cartoonists used years ago. Of course, when I was developing it as my own way of working, I didn’t know that. For the actual painting, I use large stencils. I lay them onto the canvas and sponge the paint on. This way there are no brush strokes. Sometimes, I overlay the stencils so that you get the sort of effect you see when a picture isn’t printed quite right -just a little offset. I like that irregular edge”. Just like the works by Andy Warhol or Jean-Michelle Basquiat, John Clem Clarke’s oeuvre is complete with imperfections: “Instead of painting out my “mistakes”, I let them stay on the canvas as alternative solutions to the painting and to show the thought process in making a painting. It bothers me when things look too good. I like to paint and paint and paint, until I get it wrong.”

On weekends, Clarke still roams around flea and antiques markets, looking for vintage retro objects, advertising material and photographs he can use as a point of departure for his artworks. The great ads from the fifties and early sixties are a big source of inspiration: “I try to make the paintings seem as commercially produced as possible. People grew up looking at commercial illustration and print advertising, so they are comfortable with it as a visual style. I make art in a way that people find it immediately accessible”.
Clarke found his future as an artist in his past through the subject matter, themes and styles of forties, fifties & sixties. But Clarke’s works also speak of the present, the moment he creates them, by his vision & the personal touch of his brushstroke.

In the 1910s, the Coca-Cola Company ran an ad of a gorgeous woman drinking a Coke. The copy read: “Nothing is so suggestive of Coca-Cola’s own pure deliciousness as the picture of a beautiful, sweet, wholesome, womanly woman.”
Associating itself with an ideal American girl, Coca-Cola made its appeal to the public. Clarke takes this advertising concept one step further and combines the “Coca-Cola girl” billboard with the all American theme of a police car chase. His painting “Police Behind Cola Billboard” is so filmesque, that we actually wonder what will happen next…

The Pop in Nu Pop Culture: A New Art Generation Inspired by Coca-Cola

More than 45 years ago, artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Mel Ramos and Andy Warhol started to use images of the Coca-Cola bottles or cans to create their pop art. The embrace of popular consumer goods such as Coca-Cola by these iconic artists had a great influence on pop culture, broke aesthetic barriers and touched a deep cultural nerve.

Today, a new generation of artists eager to focus on Coca-Cola’s artistic aura. Using centuries-old techniques as drawing and painting or state-of-the-art Photoshop or Illustrator skills (and sometimes a mix of old & new), they transform Coke’s iconic visual elements into original and captivating works of art.

“Coca-Colored” (detail) by Kofi Ansah aka De Godson (Italy/UK)

Kofi is a 19 year old artist with a goal and determination. He is originally from Ghana but has spent most of his life in Europe. His main residence is in Milan, but currently Kofi is studying 3D Animation at Ravensbourne College of Design & Communication, London. Kofi is also the webmaster and driving force of DigitalFlow, a dedicated site for young graphic talent.
http://degodson.com/

“Coca-Cola” illustration by Issam 991, Morocco

“Koi Cola” by Orticanoodles, Italy

Orticanoodles is a street artist from Milan, famous for his stencil art. Orticanoodles is making a name for himself since 2005, filling the city with his spray & brush images. The koi carps quickly became his signature design, being so colourful and suitable for different pictorial treatments.
http://www.orticanoodles.com/

“Diet Coca-Cola” by TrashCandy, Israel

“Coca-Cola Can” by MKitos, Portugal

“Coca-Cola Cup” by Kasia H4waiian, Poland

“Coca-Cola Can” by Thomas Pwgy, Romania

“Invisible Lines” by Hannouska (Hannah Maité), France

“This is a painting İ made to illustrate the invisible lines between the body and it’s environment. So as you can see, there are differents objects that appear thanks to the lines. Everything is connected to each other. Do you see the fox?”

“Feel the Love” by Go Green, Canada

“Coke, Cake & Cream” by Aya Takagi, UK
Sweet, sour, yummy and melting sensation expressed through delicious syrupy and rich, fresh and fruity colours in dynamic shapes and images. Screenprint with aquascreen ink on paper.

Aya Takagi was born in Tokyo in 1984. She graduated from University of Canterbury, School of Fine Arts with BFA Printmaking in 2006. She is continuing her study in fine art at University of Canterbury in the BFA Honors Programme this year. She uses silkscreen as her main printing method, since her interest in printmaking was influenced by Pop Artists such as Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg.

“Cherry Coke” by Schimpansen

Keith Haring, Art For All People

Keith Haring, who died of HIV related complications at the age of 31, would have celebrated his 50th anniversary in 2008. This is commemorated with several events and expositions all over the world.

Keith Haring was born on May 4, 1958 in Reading, USA and was raised in nearby Kutztown. From a very young age, Keith developed a love for drawing – learning some cartoon techniques from his father, Walt Disney cartoons and his favorite comics.
After Keith graduated from high school, he went to the Ivy School of Professional Art, where he took some courses in commercial & fine art. He quickly realized that he had little interest in becoming a commercial graphic designer, so he dropped out of school and left for New York.

Soon, Haring’s talent was recognized in the NYC underground, where his newly invented trademark figures as the radiant babies, barking dogs and flying saucers could be daily seen by thousands of passengers. The NYC subways became his studio, using the black ad boards as his canvas. Haring made it a point to keep his drawings fast & simple so even passengers catching only a glimpse could still understand it.

Keith Haring was swept up in the spirit & energy of the underground art scene and began to organize and participate in group shows as CoLab and exhibitions at alternative venues as Club 57.
He became friends with fellow artists Jean-Michel Basquiat and Kenny Scharf; graffiti artists such as Lee, Fab Five Fred and LA II; pop stars Madonna and Grace Jones; teenage heroes Timothy Leary and William Burroughs.
Keith’s artistic idol, Andy Warhol, was the theme of several of Haring’s artworks. Here you can see “Andy Mouse”, a tribute to his Pop Art Trinity: Warhol, Disney and Coca-Cola.

The recognition gained in the New York underground scene allowed Keith Haring to establish contact with the international art world, and by the time of his death in 1990, his talent was recognized by the most prestigious galleries and museums in the world.
Between 1980 and 1990, Haring participated in over 100 group and solo exhibitions as Documenta in Kassel and the Whitney and São Paulo Biennial.
During these years, Keith Haring also completed a lot of public projects, ranging from designing decors for theaters and clubs, an animated billboard on Times Square, posters for the Mandela concert, an ad campaign for Absolut Vodka, watch designs for Swatch and murals worldwide.
Keith’s iconic people, babies, dogs, angels, monsters, televisions, computers, cartoon figures, pyramids, … became signs of the times.

Throughout his career, Haring devoted much of his time to public works, which often carried social messages. He produced over 70 public artworks, many of which were created for children’s centers, hospitals and other charity causes.

By expressing universal concepts, using bold lines and bright colors, Keith Haring was able to attract a global audience. Today, the power of his imagery is still intact and his “art for all people” is universally recognized as one of the strongest pop expressions of the 20th century.

In 1989, the Keith Haring Foundation was established. The mandate of the Foundation was to provide funding and imagery for AIDS organizations as well as children’s organizations. Even though the master behind the creations has long gone, Haring’s much adored style and messages are still alive.

The Ludwig Museum Art in Budapest contributes to the Keith Haring celebration with a unique exhibition organized in co-operation with the Keith Haring Foundation. The expo runs from August 15 – November 16, 2008. More info on http://www.lumu.hu & http://www.haring.com

Andy Warhol – Supermarket of Styles

Today, more than 45 years have passed since Warhol started showing Campbell’s soup cans and Coca-Cola bottles. Over the course of all these years, more and more people have understood that Warhol’s art opened up an undiscovered territory as large as the world itself; that this territory includes not only stars and soup cans, humor and wit, but also mysteries.

His clients soon included The New Yorker, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Bergdorf Goodman and Tiffany & Co. Andy removed the final a from his name and became Warhol. Apart from the purchase of a hairpiece early in the ‘50s and a nose job in 1957, this was about the biggest change he made in himself, as he went from poverty in Pittsburgh to success in New York.

By 1952, he’d received his first medal from the Art Directors Club and had been given his first solo exhibition, at the Hugo Gallery. Warhol exhibited drawings based on the writings of Truman Capote. By 1956, he was participating with a series of drawings of “personality shoes” in a group exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art: Recent Drawings USA.
That same year he also had two solo shows at the Bodley Gallery and went on a round-the-world tour. In 1957, he incorporated himself as Andy Warhol Enterprises to help manage his commercial work.

All this time, Warhol had continued to paint; he also kept abreast of the avant-garde. We know he was aware of Jasper Johns’s work and also of Robert Rauschenberg’s art. In defiance of the prestige then enjoyed by abstract painting, both of those artists incorporated immediately recognizable, images into their works. Jasper Johns painted the American flag, while Rauschenberg inserted objects such as Coca-Cola bottles and photographs of President Eisenhower into his paintings. To Warhol, it was a matter of no small interest that the avant-garde could come so close to his own world of commercial art.

In 1960, Warhol took up the dare and made his first paintings based on comic-strip characters. He exhibited them the following year, not in an art gallery, but in the window of Bonwit-Teller, as the background for a mannequin display. Then he visited the Leo Castelli Gallery and discovered, to his surprise, that Roy Lichtenstein was also making paintings based on comic strips. Apparently, Warhol was on to something. But if Lichtenstein had staked out the comics as a subject for art galleries, then Warhol would have to find something else.
What he found, beginning in 1962, was nothing less than the entire American scene. Whereas other artists like Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist and Tom Wesselmann where also working with Pop Art imagery in the early 1960s, Warhol quickly emerged as a leader, painting grass-roots brand names like Campbell’s, Mott’s, Kellog’s, Del Monte, Coca-Cola; American money, postage stamps, and bonus gift stamps, tabloids and his childhood comic idols Superman, Dick Tracy, Nancy and Popeye. He also portraited the most popular stars from James Dean, Elvis Presley and Elizabeth Taylor to Marlon Brando and Marilyn Monroe.

But this was only the beginning of his art and vision. Warhol’s art is a visual anthology of consumer brands, headlines, personalities, mythic creatures, tragedies and even a tribute to his favorite artworks. Some of his first Pop pictures were made by hand, and to a knowing eye they gave evidence of great skill – for example the images of Campbell’s soup cans with peeling labels, which are marvels of illusionistic brushwork. But soon Warhol adopted the methods of mass production to make images of brands and celebrities who were themselves mass produced.