How Rich was Andy Warhol?

Name: Andy Warhol
Born: August 6, 1928 (Death: February 22, 1987)
Occupation: Artist

Thomas Ammann and Andy Warhol, 1978. Photo: Jerusalemjerusalem
Thomas Ammann and Andy Warhol, 1978. Photo: Jerusalemjerusalem

Odds are you’ve seen at least one of Andy Warhol’s pieces, even if you didn’t realize at the time it was his. Born in PIttsburgh, Pennsylvania to Ajrej Varhola (later Americanized to Warhola) and Julia, Andy was the youngest of 4 children (one died before his parents moved to the US).

Andy suffered from a series of illnesses throughout his childhood, ultimately developing a reputation as a hypochondriac as well as a fear of doctors. While he was outcast in school, he did develop a very close relationship with his mother as she cared for him during the episodes where he was bedridden. 

While his original intention was to go to school to become an art teacher, he ultimately changed his mind and instead went to the Carnegie Institute of Technology. It was there that he studied commercial art before moving to NYC to work in advertising with a focus on magazine illustration.

It may seem a bit odd, but Warhol earned his notoriety in the 50’s with his drawings of shoes. Yup, shoes. Some of the line drawings he did for these advertisements became a part of his Bodley Gallery showing and helped him to gain further acclaim. He was ultimately hired by RCA, along with another artist, to design some of their early promotional pieces.

Warhol wasn’t afraid to make mistakes. As a matter of fact, he embraced them. It is not uncommon to see smudges or smears around the edges of his original pieces, both in his commercial art and his finer art pieces. Warhol believed you can always learn from your mistakes.

Andy didn’t have a West coast exhibition until the 1962, when he created a display for the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles. This is where he first made a debut it what became known as “pop art,” after which he went back to NY for his first solo show at the Stable Gallery. It was during this time that Warhol began to paint objects most of us view as everyday, iconic items – Coke bottles, Campbell’s soup cans, dollar bills, and a series of everyday celebrities.

Warhol’s life changed forever in June of 1968, when radical feminist Valerie Solanas entered his Factory studio and shot him and art critic Mario Amaya. While Amaya walked away relatively unscathed, Warhol was in critical condition but survived thanks to the incredible skill of his surgeons. The shooting impacted his health for the remainder of his life.

Andy Warhol spent the majority of the 1970’s focused on portrait commissions from wealthy individuals, living a much quieter life. He did co-found the New York Academy of Art in 1979. While his fame grew again in the 1980’s, it was mostly on the heels of some of the younger artists he was affiliated with. Critics often spoke out against what they viewed as a new sense of commercialism, though later in life critics began to look back at the commercial and superficial works as a “mirror of the times.”

Andy Warhol died on February 22, 1987. He suffered from a cardiac arrhythmia after a gallbladder surgery. His family sued the hospital for negligence and the case was settled out of court. At the time of his death, Andy Warhol’s estate had a net worth of $220 million.

How much is $220 million?

A lot. And it went to good causes after his death, too. Andy Warhol’s will only dictated that a few small pieces be left to family members. The rest was auctioned off over a period of 9 days, by Sotheby’s, and the profit was used to create the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts (also mandated by his will). The US copyright representative for the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts is the Artists Rights Society. Film, transparency images, and digital images are handled by different groups.

It would be ridiculous to attempt to portray the depths of Warhol’s portfolio of paintings, films, musical endeavors, books and prints, and other media items in an article of this nature. What remains true, however, is the profound impact the Godfather of pop art had on the scene and how it evolved into what we see today.

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