Sam Taylor-Wood has been unable to avoid comparisons with Warhol. Not only does her work take the form of film and video but she often enlists the help of her (famous) friends to pose for her. Taylor-Wood openly mixes her celebrity acquaintances with art history, no more so than in David, her most Warhol-like work. The film is beautifully shot in Taylor-Wood’s signature richly coloured style and shows David Beckham sleeping in his hotel room in Madrid. David echoes Andy Warhol’s first film Sleep, from 1963. The original concept for Sleep was, according to his assistant Gerry Malanga, “…to film Brigitte Bardot sleeping. He didn’t get Brigitte Bardot so filmed a friend of his”. Already a friend, Sam Taylor- Wood did get David Beckham for her film.
If Andy Warhol was obsessed with Hollywood and celebrities, Peter Davies’ obsession is Art and Artists. Davies’ paintings are like a famous artists’ name game and operate as literal portraits of contemporary artists, expressed in single words, sentences or as whole paintings. In 2000 Davies paid homage to Andy Warhol in his painting ‘Super Star Fucker – Andy Warhol Text Painting’. Taking Warhol – his name written on a star in the centre of the painting – as the starting point, links are drawn between the Warhol star and other stars bearing inscriptions such as “Simplicity”, “Fame”, “Hangers On”, and so on. All the stars are connected to Warhol, some to each other, but all relate to Warhol’s impact on contemporary art. The painting is like a biography of Warhol in single words – and, of course, lots and lots of stars.
JEFF KOONS AND DAMIEN HIRST
In terms of their public image and level of ambition, Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst are the two artists who picked up the baton from Warhol in the most obvious way. Like Warhol, each artist has fully embraced the idea of having work fabricated, employing armies of assistants and being overtly commercial – what Warhol would call business artists. Koons initially funded his art by working as a Wall Street trader; he tapped into advertising and PR spin and set himself up as the spokesperson for his own enterprise. Like Warhol he presented and recontextualised mundane objects with a minimalist’s eye: vacuum cleaners and basketballs suspended in glass tanks merged conceptualism with pop.
Hirst’s art also followed Warhol’s lead by using everyday objects such as fish, butterflies or pill boxes as stand-ins for traditional artists’ materials. Picking up Koons’ presentation style, Hirst famously made a series of works that suspended dead animals in glass vitrines. Alongside these “sculptures” he makes spot paintings that reflect Warhol’s pop yet minimalist aesthetic. Even though his work is made in a formally non- radical way, like Warhol it was his subject matter that shocked: a shark, live flies, a dissected cow… Hirst has often said that his work is about life and death while Warhol once commented, “Everything I do is connected with death”. Aside from the similarities to Warhol in what they make, each artist has openly built shock, spin and hype into their work, putting themselves as much on display as their art.
A less well-known media personality then Koons or Hirst, Julian Opie’s work has definitely followed a similar “manufactured” and commercial path. Pie’s portraits and landscape paintings are made by manipulating photographs, using computer software, into pictogram-style representations that are then produced in coloured vinyl, resulting in a flawless, flat surface. Sometimes these images remain on the computer, existing as virtual portraits that blink or move. Opie’s website offers the viewer the option to download images, allowing them to “own” his work not as reproductions but in their original state. The amount of variations he offers based on a single image, his online shop and his work in the pop music industry (he has designed sleeve artwork for Blur and Saint Etienne) all demonstrate how multiples, repetition and commercialism are as integral to Opie’s practice as they were to Warhol’s.
In his film Bootleg Empire, Douglas Gordon pays homage to Warhol’s seminal film Empire (1964) – an eight hour-long study of the Empire State Building. Warhol’s Empire introduced the notion of the “film as idea”, the concept being as important as the visual event itself. Gordon’s “bootleg” re-introduces the film and its original idea but adds another layer of meaning by appropriating, or bootlegging. Gordon didn’t shoot the Empire State Building at all, but instead spent eight hours aiming a camera at Warhol’s Empire. If Warhol’s core concern was repetition and reflection, Gordon’s Bootleg Empire is a work that repeats a repetition and reflects Warhol’s original idea for Empire back at its creator – bringing the artist, rather than the building, into focus and making Warhol the star.
In 2001, Martin Creed won the coveted Turner Prize, and in true Warhol style was presented with his award by Madonna. His Turner Prize installation The Lights Going On And Off consisted of a white room where the lights literally came on for five seconds then went off for five more – causing the obligatory outraged questions about what is art? Creed’s installation shared the same minimalist sensibility as a work by Warhol called Invisible Sculpture, exhibited at The Factory in 1974. Invisible Sculpture consisted of various intruder alarms that all pointed to the middle of the room. Some of the alarms activated light beams that would flash on and off, while others emitted different sounds. Anyone who walked through the centre point triggered the alarms and set off the “invisible” sculpture. Similarly, a work by Creed called Half The Air In A Given Space consisted of a room half-filled with balloons, a close cousin of Warhol’s Silver Clouds installation which he made when he decided to “retire” from art.
In his recent solo show Actress Slash Model, Martin Maloney exhibited thirteen large-scale collages portraying Page 3 girls. Updating the nude as a formal art historical genre with a present day association, each painting was rendered in Maloney’s signature expressive style. These Pop Culture icons were individually striking paintings, and by displaying them en masse Maloney made the idea of the show as important as the work in it. Maloney commented, “I wasn’t thinking of Warhol when I made the work”, but to see a show like this, where repetition is so central, it seems impossible not to think of Warhol. Thanks to Warhol, borrowing an image from pop culture, or using the device of repetition inspired by supermarket shelves and advertising hoardings as a formal idea, has become second nature in contemporary art.
Elizabeth Peyton specializes in small paintings with big subjects. While her work is obviously handmade and references painters such as John Singer Sergeant or Alex Katz, she shares Warhol’s interest in ideals of beauty and glamour expressed through a fascination with celebrity. Although her subjects are easily recognized: Jarvis Cocker, Kurt Cobain, Pete Doherty et al, her choice of colours and seductively loose painting style heightens the mystique around them, emphasising their youthful qualities and glossing over any flaws. Like Warhol in the ’60s, Peyton documented a particularly resonant strain of ’90s and early ’00s underground icon-hood.