Famous for Fifteen Minutes: Andy Warhol's Celebrity Portraits
His ability to photograph dozens of celebrities in a single swoop of his camera made Andy Warhol an incredible documentarian of American culture. His ability to predict the future of celebrity culture some 40 years before the explosion of reality TV has made him a legend.
Andy Warhol built his reputation for navel gazing around the dazzling, but ultimately chintzy, allure of fame and fortune. But celebrity was far from a fleeting novelty to Warhol, whose own star was orbited by the most famous entertainers, athletes, artists, and socialites of his day; in fact, nothing could have been more banal, and banality was precisely the point for the artist, who relished the kind of predictability that can leave others feeling jaded.
An acute and at times harsh observer, Warhol might be thought of as a virtuoso fly on the wall. “Whenever Liza walks into a room everything stops and people wait for the act to begin,” he once wrote. Flies, however, don't tend to be the orchestrators of the scenes they look upon. Such cunning is precisely the key to Warhol's enduring mystique—not just for his sheer ability to photograph so many celebrities with one fell swoop of his camera, but also for the way his finger was uncannily on the pulse of things to come. Like some kind of nefarious sage, Warhol foretold of the bitter love/hate relationship the world would much later develop toward the idiotic mundanity of celebrity culture. The future he saw, way back in the 1960s, in which everyone is "famous for fifteen minutes" has finally arrived, full force, 50 years later.