Portrait of an artist: Andy Warhol in 1975
Before Andy Warhol’s funeral in 1987, many of those gathered in New York to pay tribute genuinely believed that Andy himself might make an appearance at the service.
Such was the strength of belief that the master craftsman of pop culture had decided to invent his own death as yet another original piece of concept art.
But don’t count on Warhol turning up at the Tate Modern’s new blockbuster exhibition of his work which opened this week either — because if he were alive today, he’d be in his 90s.
There hasn’t been a Warhol show at the Tate Modern for nearly two decades and as well as his classic images of Marilyn Monroe and Campbell’s soup, there are also works from his Ladies and Gentleman series of Latin drag queens, as well as multi-media footage of his epic 1960s New York party events called Exploding Plastic Inevitable. Yet his long legacy goes well beyond Manhattan, taking in numerous U.S. cities and stretching all the way to Slovakia.
Here’s our guide to the best places to dig deeper into the life of the man described by his latest biographer Blake Gopnik as the single most influential artist of the last century.
The Tate Modern’s new blockbuster exhibition of Warhol’s work opened this week. Pictured are the Debbie Harry images he created
He may have hot-footed it to the shinier lights of New York City when he was just 21, but the hard-boiled, hard-working, hard-partying city of Pittsburgh is where Andrew Warhola (he dropped the latter ‘a’ when he moved to the Big Apple) was born in 1928.
The Andy Warhol Museum (warhol.org, £15.40), which opened a quarter of a century ago, is a quite astonishingly vast enterprise. Spread over seven floors are more than 12,000 of his works, including silk screens of Elvis Presley in full cowboy Western garb, an early love letter sent to him by his first boyfriend Carlton Willers and his primary colour drenched portraits of Mick Jagger and Joan Collins.
You can also see the contents of some of the numerous time capsules which he created throughout the 1970s and 1980s — each one is filled with newspapers, photos and magazines of the time.
Where to stay: The Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel (mariott.com) has views directly looking out over the bright yellow Andy Warhol Bridge and has doubles from £164 room only.
Getting there: BA (ba.com) flies direct from London Heathrow to Pittsburgh from £281 return.
The Andy Warhol Museum of Modern Art in Medzilaborce, Slovakia
Closer to the Ukraine than the Slovakian capital of Bratislava, the minuscule eastern village of Mikova (population: 148) is where Warhol’s parents, Andrej Varchola and Julia Zavacky-Varchola, lived before emigrating to America on the eve of World War I. The village church where the two married still stands and is painted bright yellow. Andy never visited Mikova but it’s possible that his knowledge of its obscurity may have helped prompt him to famously once state: ‘I am from nowhere.’
The nearby town of Medzilaborce has converted its Soviet era post office into an Andy Warhol Museum, which houses Europe’s largest collection of Warhol pieces, including ten Campbell’s Soup Can prints, a pair of his glasses and his rather garish looking snakeskin jacket.
Where to stay: Hotel Laborec (eurohotel.sk/cennik) is the most professionally run of the unsurprisingly tiny number of accommodation options in Medzilaborce. Doubles from £40.
Getting there: Wizz Air (wizzair.com) flies direct from London Luton to Kosice from where it’s a two-hour drive to Medzilaborce.
Down on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, the Revolver Gallery (revolverwarholgallery.com) is where you can (should you have a few thousand dollars at the very least to spare) buy your own original Warhol print — just as Bruno Mars and Coldplay among others have from here since its launch in 2012.
Even if you’re, understandably, just browsing, there’s over 250 of his works here, all bought by owner Ron Rivlin.
Elsewhere, the Broad art museum on Grand Avenue displays his self-portraits from 1966, alongside some notable works by the avowedly pop-influenced artists who could never have existed without him such as Jeff Koons and Cindy Sherman.
Where to stay: The art deco Sunset Tower Hotel (sunsettowerhotel.com) is just a ten-minute walk from the Revolver Gallery and possesses exactly the kind of mid-20th century glamour Warhol adored — guests have included Clark Gable, Greta Garbo and John Wayne, who once kept a cow on his balcony so his visitors were guaranteed fresh milk. Doubles from £303 room only.
Getting there: British Airways (ba.com) flies from London Heathrow to Los Angeles from £313 return.
Warhol rarely made direct comments on politics, but the turbulent changes of the 1960s couldn’t help but seep through his art. The Smithsonian Museum of American Art (si.edu, free) has the silkscreen images he created of Jackie Kennedy, taken on the day of JFK’s funeral. Elsewhere, the National Portrait Gallery (npg.si.edu, free), also part of the Smithsonian, has a haunting self-portrait he made in 1986, barely a year before he passed away.
And the National Gallery of Art (nga.gov, free) is home to one of his most revered Marilyn Monroe prints alongside a deeply strange and murky work called Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, which shows images of fellow outlaw artist Robert Rauschenberg and his family.
Where to stay: Warhol’s 1986 Indian Head Nickel work, created a year before his death, hangs in the lobby of the Four Seasons Georgetown (fourseasons.com). Doubles from £530 room only.
Getting there: British Airways (ba.com) has direct flights from London Heathrow to Washington DC from £386 return.
Warhol began his career as an album sleeve designer in New York
Being the city where he began as an album sleeve designer, founded his Factory studio, got shot by a crazed acolyte (and survived), dined, partied, created and died at the age of just 58, the Big Apple is the ultimate Warhol destination.
Start at the Museum of Modern Art (moma.org, £19), which contains more than 100 of his works including his portraits of Marilyn Monroe from 1962 and his iconic Campbell’s Soup Can works from the same year.
Then head to the quirky Serendipity 3 diner (serendipity3.com), where a young Andy would regularly devour ice cream sundaes. Don’t miss their highly oxymoronic ‘frozen hot chocolate’, too.
Finally, make a beeline for the Empire State Building (esbnyc.com, £32), the location for Warhol’s longest and, many would say, most famously tedious work — his 1964 movie Empire which consisted of nothing but a single shot of the building for eight hours.
Where to stay: The Gramercy Park Hotel (gramercyparkhotel.com) has its own Warhol art collection with his portraits of Joan Collins, Willy Brandt and more currently on display. Doubles from £260 room only.
Getting there: BA (ba.com) flies direct from Heathrow, Gatwick and London City to New York JFK from £245 return.
- Tate Modern’s Andy Warhol show runs until September and entry is £22 for adults. More info at tate.org.uk