As 2018 comes to a close, it is time to revisit the important moments in the art scene. Traces of pop art have been ubiquitous in both the fashion and art worlds this year. This coincides with the 90th birthday of the style’s leading figure Andy Warhol, who has an immense influence on contemporary art.
text: Michelle Siu
I have heard of Andy Warhol for a long time. However, it was only until 2012 to 2013, when I worked as a volunteer at the Andy Warhol exhibition at Hong Kong Museum of Art, that I got to learn about Warhol’s work and accomplishments in depth. The whole experience was very interesting. Apart from the opportunity to appreciate up-close his famous works, originals, photos and videos, there were also plenty of workshops to attend and unlimited Campbell soup to eat, at last I even had to stay at the museum overnight. As I was about to fall asleep near midnight, I was perked up by the live music performance from the famous rock band The Velvet Underground. That was the beginning of my crazy night journey. In contrast to the long-distance appreciation of Andy Warhol’s works at high-end galleries and auction houses, pop art is marked by its playfulness, the one concept which reflects social values and connects to people’s daily life.
Pop art started to gain popularity in the 1960s in New York City. It served as a milestone in the history of art, with Warhol acting as a leading figure. Before the emergence of this art form, art has always been the privilege of the upper class. Pop art leaves the superiority behind and relates art to the material reality, transforming art into a relaxed and enjoyable part of the popular culture. Warhol’s famous works often portray popular items, such as “Coca-Cola” and “Campbell’s Soup Cans”, or entertainment and political celebrities, such as Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and Mao Tse-Tung. He also created the wellknown banana album cover for The Velvet Underground.
Some people may find the works of Warhol too commercial and lack of depth. To that Warhol responded, “Business art is the step that comes after art…making money is art, and working is art – and good business is the best art.” Warhol goes against traditions and is unfazed by criticisms. He even named his studio “The Factory” and used screen printing techniques to replicate works at a low cost. It was his attempt to reveal the irony in art. His creative ideas and presentation of actual lives in society are most inspiring. He removed the boundary between fine art and pop art, making art more approachable. His creative works have changed the attitude of the public towards art.
Pop art is for the public and spread by the public. Warhol once said, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” Anything or any behaviour can be seen as art and anyone can participate in it. However, these superficial works come and go very quickly. Even before the internet, he accurately predicted the fast pace of change and replacement in the age of information explosion. Everyone can become famous all of a sudden, but forgotten in the next moment as new things emerge. Today’s world is a proof that Warhol is forward-looking. His imagination is limitless. That is exactly the value of art.