To Andy Warhol and back again, 1987 and 2002

Fifteen years ago today, on February 23, 1987, Andy Warhol died at New York’s Cornell Hospital from complications following a gallbladder operation. It was a time when many celebrities were dying of AIDS and so the silence maintained by those close to Warhol left many questions unanswered. Since then, Fame and Fortune, the names of Warhol’s two dogs that he was devoted to, have been faithful to him. His works, including paintings, photographs and films, have been shown in numerous exhibitions. The major retrospective at London’s Tate Modern, and which was first shown in Berlin, has been drawing record crowds, including school groups coming to see the images of Campbell’s Soup and Brillo boxes, the Electric Chair, and portraits of Mao, Marilyn Monroe and the Mona Lisa. «I take photographs as I have no memory,» he used to say. The son of Czech immigrants, born in 1930 in a ghetto in Forest City, Pennsylvania, who went on to get a degree from the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, he moved to New York in 1949 and changed his name from Andrew Warhola. Thanks to hard work, inventiveness and an awareness of the psychology of the rich who want to become famous, he won his own holy war and became the golden boy of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. Even after his death he has continued to be a source of wealth for his heirs, his publishers and art collectors. «From A to B and Back Again,» the title of his autobiography, is also the key to his success. In a short space of time, he put his finger on the pulse of New York, and made his mark. In Athens, the late Dionysis Logothetis had Warhol’s «Alexander the Great» in his collection. There was another of his portraits of Alexander the Great in the entrance hall of the US Embassy residence when Nicholas and Libby Burns were there. Warhol also made silkscreen portraits of prominent Athenian women Marianna Vardinoyianni, Donda Voridi (nee Goulandri) and Aliki Perroti. Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, president of the Athens 2004 organization, has one of his paintings of flowers. Above anything else, Warhol loved his magazine, Interview, for which he designed and painted all the covers himself. Helbi, who had the pleasure to meet Warhol in 1987 at New York’s Factory as he was photographing Guiliana Benetton for a Benetton shoe advertisement, visited the Tate Modern in 2002, and took these photographs (without a flash). «My paintings never turn out the way I expect them to, but I’m never surprised,» he once said.

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