"Who wants the truth? That's what show business is for, to prove that it's not what you are that counts, it's what they think you are."

- Andy Warhol from America


Another one of Warhol's groundbreaking subjects was the concept of celebrity. It was yet another aspect of popular culture that was not considered art until the Pop Art movement and Warhol's own work. Warhol understood the power of celebrity in America (that much is obvious from his carefully kept image, See Who is an Artist?), and he understood the pull that the images of celebrities had, but what fascinated him the most about the subject was the difference between truth and reality in the world of Hollywood.

A lot of his fascination can be attributed to the fact that when Warhol was growing up films were extremely popular distractions and there were numerous film magazines that charted the secret lives of the stars. These tabloid papers were extremely popular and it didn't take a genius to figure out that much of what they printed were outright lies. Still, Warhol subscribed to the postmodern concept of truth as a subjective value and adored the tabloids. His dairy entry for Tuesday March, 27 1983 shows how much he loved them, "…and oh, I love my enquirer gift subscription that someone gave me for Christmas. Everything they say is true." Warhol even went so far to as create his own film magazine, Interview in 1969. (Click to view a sample of Interview.) Which he claimed he started so that he and his friends could get free tickets to the premieres. The truth was that Warhol had been obsessed with fame ever since his childhood when he collected autographs from stars. His most famous quotes are on the subject of fame and the fifteen minutes he felt everyone would get. There was no way to get around the incredible impact that celebrity had on America and no better topic for Pop Art.

Through his art, Warhol became a celebrity himself and came in contact with almost every famous star in the 60's, 70's and 80's through socially or when they requested a portrait. He used this opportunity well and turned many of his celebrity portraits into paintings where their wrinkles and defining features were covered with white makeup so that the highlights of the facial structure were all that was left. Even with a simple outline the face of a popular celebrity was unmistakable. Even when screenings Marilyn Monroe's lips he choose the image so carefully that they are easily recognizable. The more recognizable the image, the more the impact, especially when repeated, so Warhol often used stills from a star's most popular film when doing a celebrity series.

Of course, the meaning was in the eye of the viewer and the blatant idolization and repetition of these images in Warhol's paintings disturbed many viewers as they realized how American culture relies on celebrities as the American aristocracy. In love with the images of glamour that celebrities represented, it was often alarming to see them rendered by Warhol. But the subject had hit home, and America would never look a their stars quite the same way again.

To view examples of celebrity in Warhol's art, click here.

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