The legend of Andy Warhol only continues to grow over the years, and his impact on the art world is difficult to overstate. Here are some eccentric facts about the strange man behind some of the most influential art of the twentieth century.
26. The Big Sick
The child of Slovakian immigrants in the United States, Andy Warhol suffered from Sydenham’s chorea during his youth. The illness is also known as “St. Vitus’s Dance” because it causes its victims to suffer from uncontrollable shaking and jerking movements. Warhol was often sick as a child, and thus developed into a hypochondriac.
25. Developmental Skills
A bedridden childhood is part of the reason why Warhol developed a love for art, as he spent most of his time drawing and listening to music. It was during this period that he began drawing movie stars, something that would catapult him to success later in life. He would refer to this time in his life as vital to his development.
24. Shoe Mania
The first work of Warhol’s career came in commercial advertising, with his first commission being to draw a pair of shoes for Glamour magazine. He would go on to become famous for his skills at drawing shoes, as the photographer John Coplans explained, “nobody drew shoes the way Andy did.”
23. Birth Name
Warhol was actually born as Andy Warhola, but dropped the “a” later in life.
22. Man of Faith
Perhaps surprisingly, Warhol was a religious man and was serious about his faith. Every day he would attend mass as a Catholic (specifically, he was a Ruthenian Catholic). He took his spirituality seriously and he volunteered throughout his life, including working at homeless shelters in New York City.
21. Funding Religion
Warhol even funded the priesthood studies of his nephew, something that brought him a serious sense of pride in his life.
20. Andy’s Stuff
Famous among his friends for his collection of things, Warhol was constantly collecting and storing different objects. Even though everyone knew of this habit, no one realized how serious it was until he died and they found 641 boxes of what his friends called “Andy’s Stuff,” which were brought to the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.
19. Auditory Problems
The IRS wasn’t a big fan of Warhol, and from the years 1972 to 1987, they audited him each and every year.
When Warhol did indeed dress up in drag, he went by the name “Drella,” which was a combination of “Dracula” and “Cinderella.”
17. Dragging Into the Scene
Though he was not a drag queen himself, Warhol provided drag queens a space to grow in his art scene and become a feature of New York counter-culture. He incorporated them into the art movement and would often pose in drag in pictures with them.
16.Cost of a Life
Warhol had so many possessions that it took Sotheby’s a total of nine days to auction off all of his stuff. In the end, his estate was able to make over $20 million.
15. Andy’s Oxidation
Among all of his paintings, perhaps the most experimental were his “piss paintings,” which were created by having him and friends (who often drank a bit too much) urinate on copper paint in an effort to have it oxidize.
14. Perfumed Burial
When Warhol was being buried, Paige Powell dropped in a copy of Interview magazine, a t-shirt of Interview magazine, and a bottle of “Beautiful” Estee Lauder perfume for him to be buried with.
13. Legacy Act
Andy Warhol had a deep passion for visual arts and made sure to leave a legacy that would foster further creative explorations. After his death, as per his will, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts was created with most of the funds from his estate and is now one of the largest grant-giving organizations in the United States.
12. Andy’s Tapes
Warhol developed the habit of recording not only his thoughts on tape and paper, but recording his conversations with people. He referred to this tape recorder as his “wife.” Eventually, he created a theater play called Pork, which was based on these recorded conversations.
11. Producing Classics
You know that Warhol painted the banana on the first album of The Velvet Underground, but you may not have known that he also produced the iconic record. However, the extent of this production is disputed, as it is believed all he did was simply provide the money for the studio.
10. Bedroom Activity
Warhol was openly gay, but was on record saying that he was a virgin. This, however, was contradicted by the long list of his lovers and by his stint in the hospital when he was treated for the STI condylomata in the 1960s.
9. Personality Development
When Warhol was running around the art circles of New York during the 1950s and 1960s, he was at first rejected. This dismissal by the inner circles—of other gay, but closeted artists—led to him developing his famous persona, and is thought to be part of why he hated talking about himself and often allowed others to speak for him.
The very first works that Warhol submitted for consideration to a Fine Art museum were nude drawings of males that were overtly homoerotic. These drawings were completely rejected because they were too far out of the closet for the art world at the time.
7. A Reasonable Suspicion of Doctors
As a hypochondriac, Warhol delayed going to the hospital in relation to his gallbladder problems. This led to a deterioration of his body throughout his life, and when he finally decided to go and have a procedure done, he ended up dying due to a post-operative irregular heartbeat. After his death, his family sued the hospital for malpractice and settled out of court.
6. The Factory
Warhol founded his “Factory” in 1962, but there weren’t just one of these famous spaces for intellectual gatherings and hard partying. In fact, there were actually three different factories between 1962 and 1984, as the space moved around. Lou Reed’s song “Walk on the Wide Side” actually references the guests that he came across at the famed gathering space.
5. Asleep With Friends
In addition to his work with still images and paint, Warhol was a prolific filmmaker, creating over 60 films over the course of his career. The titles of these films include Kiss, Eat, Face, Horse, and his first film Sleep. Sleep does what it says on the tin: it’s a six hour film of monitoring his friend’s slumber.
4. Feeling Death
On June 3, 1968, Valerie Solanas shot Warhol (along with another man) in his studio. Warhol was critically injured; he actually lost his heartbeat, and doctors had to open up his chest to massage his heart to save his life. Before the shooting, Warhol had actually been having serious premonitions about a violent death. Solanas was a radical feminist, and thought Warhol was a patriarchal expression of abuse and control. As she said, Warhol “had too much control over my life.”
3. Wigging Out
Among his favorite collections, perhaps Andy’s most prized was that of his wigs. With over 40 hairpieces that were crafted with hair imported from Italy by a famous New York wig-maker, Warhol wore them around daily. After one incident where a girl ripped a wig from his head in a playful manner, he reflected in his diary, “I don’t know what held me back from pushing her over the balcony.” Oh, and he treated them like his real hair, often going to the hair salon and having them cut by a hairdresser.
2. Time Capsules
Andy Warhol’s “time capsules” were cardboard boxes that he kept in his office by his desk and would fill up with daily objects of his life. Through the years, he collected over 600 boxes worth of these capsules.
Warhol believed that even mistakes were art and accidents were just a part of the process. However, he didn’t always apply this approach: he would leave out his own blemishes whenever he made portraits of himself.
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