After last week’s sweetly endearing picture of an earnest, still-Polish commercial artist from New Jersey, smiling in the 1950s, there is little choice but to follow with this nugget. By 1976 Warhol is a phenomenon, in the full ‘blaze of anaemia’ that characterises his heyday; the world belongs to him, his entourage, and his optometrist.And here, in an unguarded moment, the smile says what a thousand reprints of the iconic deadpan glare never can.
Let us spare a thought for the iconic pop artist tomorrow, on what would have been his 84th birthday. Unlike Gore Vidal, born three years before him, Warhol never got old. It’s hard to imagine, somehow – and, given the scale of his injuries when he was shot in 1968, he was lucky to make it to 58. But this picture makes it easier to imagine him, in the Factory, blowing out the candles on some enormous cake.
Everyone knows what Andy Warhol looked like. Inscrutable, darkly deep, above the fray the rest of us inhabit. He said, ‘In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes’. Like a deadpan spaceman he used his life and work to navigate the outer limits of this entity – fame. He explored its quarks and black holes, its quantum mechanics. And he never smiled.
Or did he?
This Sunday morning series will, for a number of weeks, explore the inner limits of post-postmodern life through the medium of the quiet man Robert Hughes called ‘the white mole of Union Square’.
If Warhol could smile, we can too.