Warhol Diaries is showing on Netflix and almost 36 years after his death, his predictions, philosophy and intuition are more correct than ever. Warhol experimented with video and filmmaking right when that medium was taking off; can you imagine what he would have done with the Internet? It is of no surprise that even today three and a half decades after his tragic passing, art collectors, the media, and the society as a whole are still obsessed with the man that turned an everyday soup can into a valuable work of art. In today’s Internet obsessed world, here are a few of the takeaways from Andy’s world that are still relevant today.
In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.
Warhol is typically given credit for this quote, most likely because he had a show with a similar title, “Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes“which aired on MTV from 1985 to 1987. In the age of social media and virality, this could not be more on target. Everyone does get their 15 minutes of fame, no more and no less (give or take), but the context is what matters. A video can go viral and everyone remembers that video star until the next thing comes along.
Sometimes this is good and possibly leads to a slow climb up the ladder and other times the person evaporates into the abyss of the population. The most famous of these is Justin Bieber who was discovered in 2007 from his YouTube uploads.
Sometimes there is notoriety in this, but given that names are made to be unique and Google doesn’t forget even the quickest 15 minutes, this could spell disaster for the offender’s lifetime.
Most notably an IAC publicist tweeted an off color “joke” that spread virally while she was onboard a flight to South Africa, and was promptly fired when the plane landed.
The last scenario is that one gets their fame, tastes it, but then recedes back to their current situation. In 2010, the Old Spice commercials went viral but the actor in them wasn’t able to book larger roles from his brief notoriety.
Warhol’s Car Crash series ranks among some of his most famous and hence expensive works. Last year “White Disaster (White Car Crash 19 Times)” sold for $85 million at Sotheby’s. In November 2013 “Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster)” sold for 105 million. “Green car Crash” sold for $71 million in May 2007. The electric chair series, race riots, and other disaster paintings fall under the same theory.
What Warhol realized is that people can’t help themselves in seeing death and disaster even when they know they should look away. Rubbernecking, reality television, extremely physical sports like MMA, boxing, football, and hockey, and other disaster and painful events capture the imagination of our collective psyche. It’s why many of these death defying prank shows (like Jackass for example) or on YouTube continue to rack up page views.
Video is the final frontier
Warhol experimented with many different mediums but his favorite arguably was video. His films would sometimes last for hours, like in his 1964 film Sleep (5 hours 20 minutes) and his 1965 film Empire (8 hours 5 minutes). As we see from platforms like Instagram and TikTok, video is the medium that is most addictive, and drives the most engagement. Americans spend more time watching video (streaming and short form content) than doing anything else, between 3 and 4 hours daily.
The biggest stars now need to figure out media training along. Starting with John F Kennedy, culminating with Reagan, and ending with Trump, even politicians nowadays need to figure out their video personas. If you can’t work on your video personality, you should stay behind the scenes. Perhaps after video, we’ll see AR/VR explode, but that might not be for a few more decades.
Everything is a commodity
Warhol took an image and replicated it multiple times. His Sixty Last Suppers took the iconic image and replicated it 60 times. Andy Warhol remarked that “the more you look at the same exact thing…the better and emptier you feel” he was making a comment on the repetitious nature of popular culture. Just as he took a basic soup can and turned it into a special commodity, the world is doing the same thing with collectibles, fashion, sneakers, and other things that were once coveted are turning into basic commodities via sites like StockX, eBay, and the Real Real. People are taking these commodities that were once meant to be used and keeping them as stores of value.
There are a number of other predictions, theories, and things that Andy did that are still relevant today that we may delve into in the future. What do you think of Andy’s influence in today’s world?