Andy Warhol was a famous artist during the mid to late part of the 20th century.
I guess we can call him an artist. Maybe he was more of an anti-artist. He painted soup cans and photocopied images of uber-famous actors like Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley over and over and over. I’m sure you’ve seen a few.
What was the point? I guess only Warhol knew for sure. He’s dead now. But I always thought he was one of the last artists. He helped usher in the mentality that everything is art. Even product packaging. And it’s all disposable. And it doesn’t have to invoke deep emotions within us. It can be a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy until the original image is meaningless.
Maybe that was the point. Warhol knew art had finally become so ubiquitous that it has no more specialness. It is no longer something we store up in famous galleries and visit once in our lives. It is no longer an event to view spectacular paintings. We see them all the time online. We never say things like, “This art is priceless,” because no art is priceless now. All art is for sale. In fact, art is created for the single purpose of being sold. It’s created with a price in mind, the money always influencing the art’s creator.
These are not all bad things, and this definitely isn’t a critical piece on the commercialism/consumerism of art.
It’s not even about the death of art. Or even capitalism. I have used both art and money in my life. And many times, I wish I had more of both of them.
This post is really about something Warhol said. I’m sure you’ve heard it before.
Warhol said that in the future, we’d all be famous for 15 minutes. We hear it all the time. Television broadcasters say, “And this celebrity’s 15 minutes are almost up.” They’re borrowing directly from Warhol, whether they know it or not.
Today, we live in the hyper-now, all the world, all history, all creations, all now and forever present. Where we are all just moments away from staring in our own viral video. Or giving a hilarious news interview making us the famous person of the week. Or we can just update our social media page for all our friends to see what a fun life we’re having while they’re sitting alone at a desk job.
What Warhol should have said was, “In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minute [mahy-nyoot – tiny, infinitesimal, minuscule] eternities.” What we will really desire is 15 minutes of being left the hell alone. We’ll all be famous. We’re all famous now. Our images and thoughts and likenesses are mediated 24 hours a day to the public, friends, and followers. Ceaseless and endless. And these images will never die. Caesar Augustus couldn’t wish for a grander eternity.
Of course that is a very loose definition of the word ‘famous’: Mediated images of yourself broadcast to the public for the rest of your life. The internet doesn’t care if you have closed your front door and pulled the blinds.
So, for tomorrow, Warhol was right. We’ll all famous for 15 minutes. But we’ll desire a life that more resembles the reclusive author of ‘Catcher in the Rye’, J. D. Salinger; 15 minutes of privacy.
Now leave me alone.