It’s Warhol’s world, we’re just images in it.
“I never think that people die,” the late Andy Warhol once said. “They just go to department stores.” So today, on this most holiest of birthdays (what would be his 87th), we’re imagining him flipping through the sale rack at JCPenney.
The iconic Pop Art master died in 1987, but his influence lives in almost every contemporary artist who followed him. From his obsession with the mundane to his infatuation with the cult of celebrity, his exploration of the fluidity of gender and identity to his endless appropriation of images, Warhol essentially predicted the contemporary pop culture climate. Just look at Richard Prince, Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman, Elizabeth Peyton, Ryan Trecartin — or, go for “UnREAL,” the Kardashians, selfie sticks and YouTube. Whether you’re ogling art in the Met or perusing a gossip mag on the toilet, it’s Warhol’s world, we’re just images in it.
In honor of our favorite bleached blonde tabloid junkie with an eye for glitter, fame and all things deeply superficial, we’ve compiled a handy guide to living à la Andy. Blond dye not included.
1. Play dress up
With his iconic serial images of stars like Jackie O. and Liz Taylor all dolled up, Warhol demonstrated just how mutable our identities are. His pop paintings revealed how the makeup we wear and the roles we play are as integral to our being as any body part we were born with. If only he could have lived to see starlet personas like Lady Gaga, Amy Winehouse and Katy Perry, watch RuPaul’s Drag Race or Kim Kardashian apply contouring makeup.
2. Dare to be shallow
“Don’t judge a book by its cover.” LOL. JK. Warhol would probably be so consumed with the book’s shimmering surface, choice of font and generic stock image that he wouldn’t make it to the prologue. Warhol believed that “beauty is a sign of intelligence,” and thus was not shy about dwelling on the world’s many enchanting exteriors, from cosmetics to soup can covers. We wish he was with us to dive into a think piece about Rihanna’s latest music video or stare into the reflective surfaces of Jeff Koons’ “Gazing Ball.”
3. Real is overrated, especially when it comes to love
“When I got my first television set, I stopped caring so much about having close relationships,” Warhol said. Whether you’re sprinkling your OKCupid profile with flattering photos, witty quips or “favorite books” you haven’t actually read — or blowing off dating all together in favor of binge-watching “Bachelor in Paradise” — Warhol would approve.
4. Be a bore
From tabloids to Coca-Cola bottles, Warhol loved everything banal, lowbrow and monotonous. So much so, in fact, that he even repeated jarring and disturbing images, like a mushroom cloud or electric chair, over and over again, until the once shocking pictures were numbed over with dull repetition. See, even death can be a bore!
5. Let’s (not) talk about sex
Next time you’re not in the mood to have sex, know Warhol would be right there with you. The artist, who may or may not have identified as gay throughout his life, told his biographer at age 52 that he was still a virgin. Whether or not the confession was truthful, it’s certain that Warhol had a fraught relationship with sex and it’s relationship to love. “It’s safe to say that most sex involves some form of nostalgia for something,” he once said. “Sex is a nostalgia for when you used to want it, sometimes. Sex is nostalgia for sex.”
6. Take those selfies
Warhol took a hint from his buddy Dorian Gray in realizing the ability of a photograph to elude mortality. “A picture means I know where I was every minute,” he once said. “That’s why I take pictures. It’s a visual diary.” The artist, who was constantly snapping photos and shooting videos of his factory, fabulous friends and social outings, would definitely have followed the mantra: “Instagram or it didn’t happen.”
7. Embrace the memes
In a way, Warhol’s brand of similar-yet-different serial images (Campbell’s soup cans, camouflage patterns, celebrity portraits) aren’t too different from the contemporary meme format (First World Problems and Kim Kardashian’s ugly cry) that pervades the Internet. We only wish Warhol could have been there to riff on our personal favorite meme, Beast Jesus.
8. Make art!
Warhol had lots of motivations for making art. One being, “I just do art because I’m ugly and there’s nothing else for me to do.” Another being, immortality! We’re going to push for option B.
9. Do you.
Warhol was a socialite to be sure. He once confessed, “If I stay home one night I start spreading rumors to my dogs.” But the man knew how to take some “me time.” You know if he had the choice between going out on a blind date and watching a “Real Housewives” marathon while applying a face mask and crying into a mirror, he’d choose the latter.
10. All publicity is good publicity
“In the future, everybody will be world famous for fifteen minutes,” Warhol once said. Whether he was talking about being RTed on Buzzfeed, trash-talked on Twitter, going viral on YouTube, or publicly humiliated on Reddit, soak it up! It’s your moment!
11. Soak it all in, drink it all up
If there’s one thing Warhol knew well, it’s that inspiration isn’t only found in the quiet halls of museums. It’s in People Magazine, your neighborhood bodega, the crumpled dollar in your pocket, Lana Del Rey, Miley Cyrus, your Facebook newsfeed, your own reflection. Now open your eyes and get to work.