Andy Warhol’s greatest work of art was Andy Warhol. Other artists first make their art and then celebrity comes from it. Andy reversed this. For me the Factory was a place of sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, for some of the others it was: from ferment comes art.”
– Nat Finkelstein, Andy Warhol: The Factory Years, 1964-1967
The son of a Coney Island cab driver, Nat Finkelstein was a Brooklyn boy who entered Andy Warhol’s Art Factory as a photographer in 1964 and remained there as a photojournalist for 3 years. His photographs are famously iconic of the times.
In 1966, Finkelstein was taking photos of Andy for a proposed book project when it became obvious that everyone in the room was jockeying to be included in the background of the photographs.
Warhol said, “Everyone wants to be famous.”
Finkelstein answered, “Yeah, for about fifteen minutes, Andy.”
A year later, when Warhol was interviewed for a 1968 exhibition in Stockholm’s Museum of Modern Art, he quipped,
“In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.”
The reporter dutifully wrote it down and it was included in the program handed out to attendees of the exhibition.
Although he was just repeating a funny line in the hopes of saying something quotable, it would become the most famous thing Andy Warhol ever said.
But Andy, you said more than you know. Hundreds of millions of us walk the streets today with little calculators in our pockets the size of 8 cigarettes placed side by side.
These pocket calculators also function as televisions that let us watch any TV show or movie anytime we want. They’ll even work in moving cars.
Our little calculators also function as movie cameras. We use them to make movies we broadcast to the entire world for free.
And it’s also a typewriter – we can use it to type a note.
And it’s a telegraph – we can send that note to any group of people in the world and it will instantly appear on their little television screens.
And it’s a telephone – we can use it to call anyone on earth, even when they’re not at home.
Our little 8-cigarette televisions – movie cameras – typewriters – telephones – are also photography cameras that use no film. These photographs don’t need to be developed so we can send them to anyone, anywhere, instantly.
The same device gives us instant access – 24 hours a day – to the collected knowledge of the world. And we can add our own thoughts and photographs and movies to this collected knowledge store anytime we want. Since they travel at the speed of light, it takes only one millionth of a minute to deliver our creations to every person in the world.
Andy, the future you described in 1968 has finally arrived, but our 15 minutes of fame is given to us in microbursts of one millionth of a minute.
Fifteen million flashes of worldwide fame take quite a while to create.
As it turns out, a lifetime.
So I’m not sure what, exactly, has changed.
Roy H. Williams
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