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Andy Warhol (1928 – 1987)
Andy sneezing
Polaroid SX-70, 10,8 x 8,8 cm
Former Polaroid Coll. No. “78:788:11” on the reverse
© The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Inc. / VBK, Wien 2011 / WestLicht Collection

Andy Warhol, media and Pop artist as well as revolutionary spirit – not only does he stand for a progressive style, but he has also created an entirely new image of the artist: the producer of art as celebrity. With a mass distribution of his face, either as photographs or as his famous screenprint portraits, he launched a global brand and created a cult about “Andy Warhol”, irrespective of the private person Andrej Warhola. In the early 1960s he discovered instant photography and its pack film technique that was established in 1963, as the ideal medium of his obsessive public self-expression.

He created a whole gallery of Polaroid portraits that range from celebrities of popular culture to the members of his “factory” and anonymous male nudes. However, the preferred subject was he himself. Warhol’s Polaroids document his era, like Instagram does ours. The nowadays inflationary selfie has its seeds in Andy Warhol’s work. His exhibition of the ego results in an alleged self-revelation, like in the portraits “in drag”, or in illusions, like the famous “fright wig” series, in which he wears a wig with hair that sticks in all directions as a signum for the Pop Artist.

In 1972, Warhol discovered the “Big Shot” Polaroid camera, which had been constructed with a fixed focal length especially for taking portraits. In addition to the camera with a Type 100 Pack Film, he began to use the revolutionary SX-70 integral film-system with the characteristic white frame in 1973. Manfred Heiting, then design director of Polaroid, presented the new technique to Warhol at a visit to the artist’s studio. Since then, Warhol was hardly ever seen without a Polaroid camera.

The decisive moment between staging and exposure, that „ambivalent balance between greatest intimacy and calculated provocation“, as Robert Rosenblum has put it, was examined by Warhol already in a portrait during his times as student, in which he drew himself picking his nose. Also in “Andy sneezing”, a seemingly intimate moment - the human reflex of sneezing - is chosen: By intentional posing and the photographic visualisation of a staged situation, the idea of intimacy is reduced to absurdity in more than one way.

Johanna Pröll © WestLicht

Lit: Robert Rosenblum, Andy Warhols Masken, in: Andy Warhol. Selbstportraits / Self-Portraits, ed. Dietmar Elger, Cat. Kunstverein St. Gallen Kunstmuseum et al. 2004–2005, p. 10–18; The Polaroid Book. Selections from the Polaroid Collections of Photography, ed. Steve Crist, Köln et al. 2008, p. 80; Cordon Baldwin, Judith Keller, Nadar Warhol: Paris New York: Photography and fame, Cat. J. Paul Getty Museum Los Angeles 1999, p. 217.