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I recently overheard someone say “well, Warhol works sure are worthless.” You definitely can replicate an Andy Warhol given the right tools. In fact, he taught his assistants how to replicate his silkscreen prints and then sold them at ridiculous prices. It is very easy to accuse Andy Warhol of being “lazy.”

Rather than start with an extreme example, let us start with a more moderate one of potential accusations of artists being “lazy”.

Gustave Courbet, The Meeting; Bonjour M. Courbet, 1854

Despite wikipedia claiming him as “one of the leaders of the realist movement“, the stiff figures in Courbet’s The Meeting would like to suggest otherwise. The comical beard along with the awkwardly inserted dog destroys the impressions of “realism” in this painting.

Gustave Courbet, The Hammock, 1844

Gustave Courbet, Woman with White Stockings, 1861

After examining the next two paintings, his status as a leader of the realist movement becomes more apparent. He has demonstrated that he had the capability to draw figures in delicate stances both before and after the painting of The Meeting. Rather than assume he had an off-day, it is much more logical to deem his stiff figures as “intentional.”

The suggestions of this painting is that Courbet indeed has the capabilities to paint in a genuine, 19th century realist style. Rather, it is much more likely that he was either trying to suggest something with the stiff figures or experimenting with a different style. Not just being lazy.

Now back to Warhol. It is very easy to draw the conclusion that he is some lazy guy who is simply good at scamming rich people. I mean, he even admits that that is what he does:

“Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.”

To top it off, he calls his studio “the factory.” His neglect to hide his intentions of cashing in on easy-to-make-art may make Warhol appear as the biggest scam artist in history, but does this mean he is lazy, and wants a quick way to cash in on his name?

Andy Warhol, Turquoise Marilyn, 1964

What you don’t see often of Warhol is his amazing work as a director (see this particularly interesting short), event organizer (huge multimedia events such as the Exploding Plastic Inevitable), painter, print maker, sculptor and of course the initial work he put into developing the silkscreen method he uses to “mass produce” in his “factory.”

What I love personally about Warhol is how he presents himself: a tool out there just to sell replicated silkscreen prints at ridiculous prices. From his repertoire of skill, it is rather clear he isn’t forced to do what I have heard many friends call “work I can teach my son to do”, but rather made the conscious choice to express himself through that method. Hence, when you buy his work, you are buying into his philosophy and attitude. And despite the ridiculous prices some of his works get at auctions, some of his prints can be found for as low as (ok, I’m using this term loosely) $20,000. And besides, there are much worse ways to spend you can spend $20,000 if you have it anyways.

Andy Warhol, Campbell's Soup Cans, 1962

Warhol certainly has discarded thousands of prints in the process of arriving at his famous works. And I feel there is a lot of value in that process of thought an experimentation. In my opinion, the experimenting on the side of Warhol and all the work to build his brand definitely doesn’t qualify him as “lazy.” Whether he is “overpriced” is another story, but I find that what defines a good artist is not found simply in the end product, but the process in which they arrived at the end product.

Andy Warhol, Cars, 1986

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