1987-02-22

ANDY WARHOL, American artist, director, and writer, died (b. 1928); One of the most famous American artist of the 20th century, Warhol was a central figure in the movement known as Pop Art. After a successful career as a commercial illustrator, Warhol became famous worldwide for his work as a painter, an avant-garde film-maker, a record producer, an author, and a public figure known for his presence in wildly diverse social circles that included bohemian street people, distinguished intellectuals, Hollywood celebrities and wealthy aristocrats. A controversial figure during his lifetime (his work was often derided by critics as a hoax or “put-on”), Warhol has been the subject of numerous retrospective exhibitions, books and documentary films since his death in 1987. He is generally acknowledged as one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century.[

Many people think of Warhol as asexual and merely a voyeur, but these notions have been debunked by biographers (such as Victor Bockris), explored by other members of the Factory scene such as Bob Colacello (in his book Holy Terror: Andy Warhol Close Up), and by scholars like art historian Richard Meyer (in his book Outlaw Representation). The question of how his sexuality influenced Warhol’s work and shaped his relationship to the art world is a major subject of scholarship on the artist, and is an issue that Warhol himself addressed in interviews, in conversation with his contemporaries, and in his publications (e.g. Popism: The Warhol Sixties).

Throughout his career, Warhol produced erotic photography and drawings of male nudes. Many of his most famous works (portraits of Liza Minelli, Judy Garland, Elizabeth Taylor, and films like Blow Job, My Hustler, and Lonesome Cowboys) draw from gay underground culture and/or openly explore the complexity of sexuality and desire. Many of his films premiered in gay porn theaters. That said, some stories about Warhol’s development as an artist revolved around the obstacle his sexuality initially presented as he tried to launch his career. The first works that he submitted to a gallery in the pursuit of a career as an artist were homoerotic drawings of male nudes and they were rejected for being too openly gay. In Popism, furthermore, the artist recalls a conversation with the film maker Emile de Antonio about the difficulty Warhol had being accepted socially by the then more famous (but closeted) gay artists Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. De Antonio explained that Warhol was “too swish and that upsets them.” In response to this, Warhol writes, “There was nothing I could say to that. It was all too true. So I decided I just wasn’t going to care, because those were all the things that I didn’t want to change anyway, that I didn’t think I ‘should’ want to change … Other people could change their attitudes but not me”.

Warhol died in New York City at 6:32 a.m. on February 22, 1987. According to news reports, he had been making good recovery from a routine gallbladder surgery at New York Hospital before dying in his sleep from a sudden heart attack. The hospital staff had failed to adequately monitor his condition and overloaded him with fluids after his operation, causing him to suffer from a fatal case of water intoxication, which prompted Warhol’s lawyers to sue the hospital for negligence.