Andy Warhol NFTs: marrying form & content
“Andy Warhol: Machine Made,” a collection of five NFTs, was auctioned by Christie’s in May of 2021 raising $3.38 million (USD). This collection, authorized by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, featured digital artwork that had been created on Andy’s Commodore Amiga computer in 1985. The collection included two self-portraits and three common Warhol icons – a flower, a Campbell’s soup can and a banana (as seen on the album cover he designed for the Velvet Underground and Nico).
During his career, Andy Warhol worked in a variety of media including drawing, painting, silk screening, and sculpture. His sphere of influence extended to film, music, events, and publishing. Andy Warhol pushed the boundaries between commercial and fine art in the subjects of his work and his techniques. Replication and authenticity are themes visible in his work.
For this reason, Warhol and NFTs are a perfect marriage of form and content. Andy Warhol once said that he wanted to be a machine, referencing his use of silk screening to create some of his most iconic and now most valuable artworks. Warhol’s studio was called “The Factory,” a nod to his interest in the mass production that fuelled the American dream. Warhol was reliant on others to assist in the realization of his vision. Former assistant Gerard Malanga described Andy as a “sort of catalyst genius”. Andy said:
What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coca Cola, Liz Taylor drinks Coca Cola, and just think, you can drink Coca Cola, too. A coke is a coke and no amount of money can get you a better coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the cokes are the same and all the cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.
The Andy Warhol Foundation has indicated that no further NFTs will be minted from the images shared in the “Machine Made” collection. Based on his experimentation with the painting program on his Commodore Amiga, it is clear that Andy would have become an early adopter of digital art. Any passing acquaintance with Andy Warhol confirms that he would have been very interested in NFTs had he lived, and Andy would have used this channel to continue his artistic commentary on authenticity and repetition.
I wonder whether Andy would have been as restrained as his eponymous foundation in deciding how many NFTs to mint?