Andy Warhol: The Interview Interview

By Peggy Roalf   Thursday October 17, 2019

Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back opens this weekend at The Art Institute of Chicago. More than 400 works offer a new view of the iconic American Pop artist, not only illuminating the breadth, depth, and interconnectedness of Warhol’s production across the entirety of his career but also highlighting the ways that he anticipated the issues, effects, and pace of our current digital age. 

This exhibition was organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and featured in DART on its opening in New York City. For its opening in Chicago, DART presents the interview Andy did with Glenn O’Brien for Interviewmagazine [The Crystal Ball of Pop] in June, 1977. Warhol’s famously laconic speaking style often failed in its attempt to present him as a dumb blond; see for yourself. Photo above, Stephen Shore and Andy Warhol, courtesy of the Andy Warhol  Foundation.

Glenn O’Brien: What was your first work of art?

Andy Warhol: I used to cut out paper dolls.

GO: How old were you?

AW: Seven. 

GO: Did you get good grades in art in school? 

AW: Yeah, I did. The teachers liked me. In grade school, they make you copy pictures from books. I think the first one was Robert Louis Stevenson. 

GO: Did they say you had natural talent?

AW: Something like that. Unnatural talent. 

GO: So, how did you decide to become an artist and move to New York? 

AW: I went to Carnegie Tech. Philip Pearlstein was going to New York during a semester break, so I took a shopping bag and we took a bus. We took our portfolios and showed them around New York to see if we could get jobs. The lady from Glamour, Tina Fredericks, said that when I got out of school she’d give me a job. So I got out and came back. That was my first job. She gave me a shoe to do.

GO: What was your ambition? To be an illustrator or a fine artist?

AW: I didn’t have any ambition.

GO: Who was the first artist to influence you?

AW: It must have been Walt Disney. I cut out Walt Disney dolls. It was actually Snow White that influenced me. 

GO: Do you think there are any great undiscovered artists?

AW: Uh, yeah, there are. But it’s more important to make money now. 

GO: What advice would you give to a young person who wants to become an artist?

AW: I’d just tell them not to be one. They should get into photography or television or something like that. 

GO: Do you think the art world is dead?

AW: Oh, yeah. Being a wall painter or a housepainter is better. You make more money as a housepainter. Ten dollars an hour. 

GO: Who do you think is the world’s greatest living artist?

AW: I still think Walt Disney is. 

GO: He’s dead.

AW: I know, but they still have him in plastic, don’t they?

GO: He’s frozen. 

AW: But I really like them all. Rauschenberg and Twombly and Paul Klee. Dead ones, too. And I like American primitive painters. I just like everyone, every group. Grant Wood, Ray Johnson. 

Right: Andy Warhol, Dollar Sign, 1981. The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh

GO: Who is the richest artist in the world? 

AW: I’ll bet there are a lot of artists that nobody hears about who just make more money than anybody. The people that do all the sculptures and paintings for big building construction. We never hear about them, but they make more money than anybody.

GO: Have you made millions on art?

AW: It depends on the expenses. 

GO: Has your work gone up in price compared to what you made on it originally?

AW: No, I try to keep it down. I turn out so much. But I stopped for a while. 

GO: To raise the prices?    

AW: No, I just can’t think of anything to do. I get so tired of painting. I’ve been trying to give it up all the time, if we could just make a living out of movies or the newspaper business or something. It’s so boring, painting the same picture over and over. 

GO: Where do you get your ideas for painting these days?

AW: I do mostly portraits. So it’s just people’s faces, not really any ideas. 

GO: Who do you think is the best business artist in the world? 

AW: Christo. He just finished this $2 million project for a foundation. But I’m sure the government’s going to find something wrong with the foundation. It seems so easy. That’s more like a business. It’s like producing something, a big $2 million project. Someone will come along and do a movie like that, a $4 million art movie nobody has to really like. 

GO: But Christo makes money. 

AW: No, he works on a foundation thing. You don’t get paid, you just take out expenses and things. 

GO: Do you think that’s what’s going to happen to art? It’s going to be all foundations and subsidies?

AW: Yeah, that sounds like a nice, new way. It’s the easiest thing. There are a lot of people working on it and it’s up for only two weeks. 

GO: Do you think Picasso was a business artist? 

AW: Yeah, I guess so. He knew what he was doing. 

Left: Metaphorical portrait of Truman Capote; photo © peggyroalf

GO: But who do you think invented the idea?

AW: I think Americans after the war. It was the galleries. Somewhere along the line, someone did it with Picasso, where it started to be more of a product.

GO: Do you wear a wig? 

AW: It says so in my book. 

GO: How many do you have?

AW: Uh, three. The last maid stole one. 

GO: What’s your natural color?

AW: Pink. 

GO: Do you believe in the American Dream?

AW: I don’t, but I think we can make some money out of it. 

GO: Are rich people different from poor people?

AW: Yes and no. 

GO: Are they happier? 

AW: If they have a dog. 

GO: Can you take it with you?

AW: Everywhere.

Screen grab from Whitney website, Andy Warhol: The Culture of Now, Episode 1

GO: Do you think the world can be saved?

AW: No.

GO: Do you think there should be any censorship?

AW: Of course. 

GO: Where should they draw the line?

AW: Things should be more sexual.

GO: Do you have any secrets you’ll tell after everyone’s dead?

AW: If I die, I’m not letting on.

Read the entire interview in Interview

Art Institute of Chicago, address, Chicago, IL. Info



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