Look and Listen. What Are the Life and Business Lessons You Can Learn from Andy Warhol?

When You Study the Life of Andy Warhol, You’re Sure to Come Away Impressed and Inspired

Whatever you feel, think, or say about Andy Warhol, it’s probably true, and he would likely agree with you. There is already so much written about him, and yet the story seems to have no end. Nearly 30 years after the last major show of his work, the Whitney Museum of American Art in Manhattan mounted an extensive Andy Warhol—From A to B and Back Again: Warhol and America retrospective that launched in November 2018 and ran through March 2019.

Andy Warhol Alongside Pablo Picasso Was One of the Most Important and Influential Artists of the 20th Century

If you think the above quote overstates Warhol’s genius and impact do what I did to research for this post. I went to the Oracle (Google) and asked, “What can we learn from Andy Warhol? Then I went to the 2nd Oracle (YouTube) and merely entered his name.

Warhol’s Impact Is Beyond Doubt

The preponderance of evidence about Warhol’s reach and importance is undeniable by the results of those searches. There is so much there there that it’s near impossible to determine what is most valuable and useful to learn from Warhol. Undaunted, here are nuggets that I gleaned from my wanderings through the wonderful, wacky, wise life and times of Andy Warhol.

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It is easy for some to dismiss Warhol’s art on multiple levels. Taken out of context a picture of a soup can hardly seem like high art. All art is about context and is uniquely subjective to the viewer. What does Campbell’s Soup mean to you?

Warhol Was a Serious Humorist

Are soup cans beautiful? Is soup beautiful? Can industrial graphic design be lifted to the highest levels of modern art? Are soup can pictures funny as any kind of art? Warhol was a clever jokester. I think he was pleased if you got his jokes and laughed and didn’t care if you didn’t… which is Warhol in my context.

If you scroll to the end, you can read my takeaways from my time with the Oracle and Warhol. 

Let’s Start with a Short (4:32) Film from the Whitney – Andy Warhol: The Culture of Now | WarholxWhitney Episode 1

The following is dialog from the Whitney show film part 1. The speakers are talking about Andy Warhol’s book, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again)Philosophy From A to B and Back Again.

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– Warhol really investigated the fundamental nature of what an image is. How it lives in the culture, the mechanics through which the images that surround us come into being.

– [Warhol said] A computer would be a very qualified boss.

– Okay, what year was this book written?

– Well, it’s important when he’s talking about computers.

– ’75.

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– Wow.

– Our phones, the media, is constantly pinging us. It (the book) certainly anticipates the advent of big data. He’s predicting AI.

– There is something really powerful about saying who are the gatekeepers of information? Who are the gatekeepers of fame?

– Was Warhol political? I don’t know, but I think his images speak to the inherent contradictions of the US.”

From the Elephant Journal:

Lessons I Never Thought I’d Learn from Andy Warhol

Persistence counts.

The man was stopless. He kept creating and trying new things. I have to say I really admire this attribute in Warhol. I’m a bit this way too. I’m still learning to care less about the opinions of others and this quote by Warhol helped:

Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.

Andy Warhol Documentary (49:22)

“Andy Warhol was a leading figure in the visual art movement known as pop art. After a successful career as a commercial illustrator, Warhol became a renowned and sometimes controversial artist. His works explore the relationship between artistic expression, celebrity culture, and advertisement.

He worked in a range of mediums, including painting, sculpture, film, and music. He founded Interview Magazine and was the author of numerous books, including The Philosophy of Andy Warhol and Popism: The Warhol Sixties. Andy Warhol is also notable as a gay man who lived openly as such before the gay liberation movement.

His studio (The Factory) was a famous gathering place that brought together distinguished intellectuals, drag queens, playwrights, Bohemian street people, Hollywood celebrities, and wealthy patrons.

Warhol has been the subject of numerous retrospective exhibitions, books, and feature and documentary films. He coined the widely used expression “15 minutes of fame”. In his hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, The Andy Warhol Museum celebrates his life and work.

The highest price ever paid for a Warhol painting is US$100 million for a 1963 canvas titled Eight Elvises. The private transaction was reported in a 2009 article in The Economist, which described Warhol as the “bellwether of the art market.” $100 million is a benchmark price that only Jackson Pollock, Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, Pierre-August Renoir, Gustav Klimt, and Willem de Kooning have achieved.”

From Eric Kim:

Philosophy Lessons that Andy Warhol Has Taught Me About Art and Life

Andy Warhol Roll of Bills 1962
Andy Warhol Roll of Bills 1962

Make artwork that will live on, don’t seek personal immortality!

Why do people spend their time being sad when they could be happy?

Making money in art isn’t bad, and doesn’t disqualify your artwork


Liz #5 (Early Colored Liz), 1963
Liz #5 (Early Colored Liz), 1963

10 Reasons Why Andy Warhol Matters

There’s a Warhol for everyone

“A filmmaker, a writer, a photographer, a band-leader (if that’s the word to characterize his involvement with the Velvet Underground), a TV soap opera producer, a window designer, a celebrity actor and model, an installation artist, a commercial illustrator, an artist’s book creator, a magazine editor and publisher, a businessman of sorts, a stand-up comedian of sorts, an exhibition curator, a collector and archivist, the creator of his own carefully honed celebrity image, and so on…Warhol, in short, was what we might loosely call a “Renaissance man,” albeit a Pop or perhaps post-modern Renaissance man.”

State of the Art – Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat – 1986

Basquiat: “I think there’s a lot of people that are neglected in art. I don’t know if because if it’s who made the paintings or what. But black people are never really portrayed realistically in modern are, or not even portrayed at all in modern art.”

From Huffington Post:

8 Ways Andy Warhol Can Inspire You To Live An Amazing Life

Andy Warhol So What - Huffington Post
“People let the same problem make them miserable for years when they could just say, ‘So what.’ That’s one of my favorite things to say. So what.”
andy warhol change things
“They always say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”

1/4 A Day in the Life of Andy Warhol (15:00)

From the New York Times:

WARHOL’S LEGACY Andy Warhol Inc.: How He Made Business His Art

“The heart of Warhol’s idea — that by playing the role of businessman, an artist could turn himself into the latest, living example of a commodification he believed none of us can avoid — was perhaps as revolutionary in its time as Marcel Duchamp presenting a humble urinal as sculpture had been in 1917. Duchamp’s gesture declared that artists alone get to define what is art; five decades later, Warhol took that as permission to treat the spreadsheet, press release and launch party as creative endeavors. This set an example for some of his most notable heirs in our current century.”

“I’ve wrestled with money — in an art sense — all through my career,” Damien Hirst, the longtime British art star and entrepreneur, said. “And I saw through Andy Warhol that it was possible to do that, that it was acceptable. Even though it raises questions, it’s not something to be afraid of.”


Business Lessons That I Learnt from Andy Warhol

Business is about partnerships

“Warhol was the original crowdsourcing pioneer in pop art – he was a master of generating ideas and collaborations from others. It’s reported that he once asked a friend what he should create, and was told that he should make “something you see every day that everybody would recognize, something like a can of Campbell’s Soup” – and so he did!

Everything from his work in The Factory to his own persona was up for delegation. He would regularly encourage assistants to impersonate him in interviews, where they were free to act however they wished.”

From MoMA: Andy Warhol’s “The Chelsea Girls” film.

My Takeaways

  • It’s okay to be different. Really different.
  • There is humor in nearly everything when you look for it.
  • You’re never stuck. The boxes we’re in are of our own making.
  • It’s okay to feel weird about making money from making art. And, it’s equally okay to like making money from making art.
  • We have more talents than we recognize. We should explore art and business on multiple levels.

Did Warhol Invent the Internet or Did It Invent Him?

There is more than a blog post or show at the Whitney can offer to learn from the life of Andy Warhol. The more I know about him, the more fascinated I become at who he was and his impact from the colossal dent he made in the universe. The internet is a virtual treasure trove of information about Warhol. I’m sure he would have loved the humor and irony in the question above.

One can only imagine how Andy Warhol would have embraced and changed the internet had he lived to see its fruition. Perhaps the best way to dig deeper into his life and work is through the Warhol Museum. It offers a unique program where you can explore Warhol’s life, artistic practice, and legacy through an extensive archive of free interdisciplinary teaching lessons available to everyone. Learn more here. 

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Andy Warhol

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  1. Nice post, Dave. I love to incorporate Warhol’s work in my paintings. Combining things in a way nobody has done before and seeing the humor in it makes my day, too. All I can do is hope and pray that the collectors connect with that – hopefully before I’m no longer around to appreciate it.

  2. Nice article, Barney, about Warhol. Interesting that you included a link from Eric Kim, more people need to know about him. Anyways, I never had an appreciation for Warhol, at least studied him and his work, until I learned that he was also a devout Catholic. Now, I know this is hard to believe, but, as your article shows he took his life and work in several directions so it is not a surprise to believe he took his devotion to his faith seriously as well. He went to Mass almost daily. Looking at his work through this lens for filter brings a new perspective (for me). Keep up the goodwill and important work you are doing!

    Frank J Casella

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