Andy Warhol is arguably the most famous American artist of the 20th Century due to his ability to turn life’s most well known icons into ambiguous art. This artistry was brought to life 50 years ago when Andy Warhol created the infamous silent black-and-white film, “Empire”. The film consists of slow motion continuous footage of the renowned Empire State Building, unchanging for eight hours and five minutes. It is a monotonous splendor of filmmaking as its sheer absurdity ultimately makes it a film of pure genius.
The film will be celebrated at its 50th anniversary on July 25th with a sparkling illumination of the actual Empire State Building. This will be a dedication to the official night Warhol turned the iconic building into a superstar.
It all began one summer day in 1964 when Jonas Mekas, often regarded as “the godfather of American avant-garde cinema”, was looking up at the Empire State Building and told John Palmer, one of Warhol’s cameramen, that this building would make a perfect movie for Warhol. After Palmer relayed the message to the young artist, Warhol immediately took Mekas’ advice and filmed the world’s tallest building on the night of July 25th from 8:06pm to 2:42am, from the 41st floor of the Time & Life Building.
As with all great art, Warhol’s “Empire” was initially the bud of much ridicule and controversy. When it premiered in 1964, many audience members demanded their money back, leaving early and regarding the film as “boring” and “unwatchable”. The reaction was unsurprising as Warhol defied the odds, making the viewer think and question the meaning of the film and the significance of great buildings.
Fortunately for Warhol, over the past 50 years, many audience members have embraced his unconventionality, turning “Empire” into the most famous film Warhol has ever created. Although it is unlikely that many will sit through the entire film screening on July 25th, there is no doubt that many will praise Warhol when the Empire State Building illuminates the sky, shining light onto the memory of the brilliant artist he was.