When people think of Los Angeles they might think: Hollywood, superficial, plastic, movies. But what about Andy Warhol? If this may sound like a stretch, take a moment to contemplate the ideas of Andy Warhol, and you might see it is a perfect match. And if I still haven’t convinced you, the following quotes by Warhol might: “In the future everybody will be world famous for fifteen minutes”, “Don’t pay attention to what they write about you. Just measure it in inches.”, “It would be very glamorous to be reincarnated as the great big ring on Liz Taylor’s finger.”, “My idea of a good picture is one that’s in focus and of a famous person.”, and finally “ I love Los Angeles, and I love Hollywood. They’re beautiful. Everybody’s plastic, but I love plastic. I want to be plastic.”
Warhol admiration of Los Angeles goes deeper than a few quotes, Los Angeles is where Warhol got his first big break into the art world. In 1962 Warhol had his first solo exhibition at the iconic Ferus Gallery in what is now West Hollywood, Los Angeles. The famed Ferus Gallery not only helped launch the career of Warhol, but other prominent artists such as: Ed Kienholz, Ed Ruscha, Craig Kauffman, Wallace Berman, Ed, Moses, Robert Irwin, Roy Lichtenstein, Donald Judd, Frank Stella, Robert Rauschenberg, and Jasper Johns.
In a 2013 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Irving Blum recalls his relationship with Andy Warhol. First meeting in 1961 Blum recognized the talent of the up and coming artist. After visiting Warhol studio and hearing of his plans of what was to become Campbell’s Soup I portfolio, Blum recalls how he convinced to exhibit Warhol work at Ferus. “ He (Andy) had no representation in New York. I said, ‘What about my showing these soup can paintings in L.A.?’ He (Andy) hesitated. ‘I said, Andy, movies stars come in to the gallery.’ A total lie because movie stars never came in to the gallery.” While the fantasy of Hollywood was the deciding factor that brought Warhol’s work to Los Angeles, it was the support of Ferus Gallery for Warhol that turned Warhol into an icon.
In 1962 Ferus Gallery first exhibited the Campbell’s Soup Can I portfolio, that were displayed on small shelves to recreate a supermarket, and establish a foundational idea behind what was to become Pop Art, the idea of commodification. The Los Angeles Times wrote of the shows, “Warhol’s appearance helped galvanize a sense that Los Angeles – a new city, steeped in popular culture and shiny materials like politics – could become a pop art capital.” The success of the 1962 shoe lead to have Warhol exhibit the following year at Ferus Gallery, this time he exhibited his Golden Marilyn and Triple Elvis among other works.
Sadly, Ferus Gallery closed in 1966 it is remembered for helping establish Warhol in the art world and the Pop Art movement. As for Warhol, his love of Los Angeles still ran deep. Screen prints of Greta Garbo, John Wayne, Judy Garland, and Annie Oakley made toward the end of Warhol’s life show how much Warhol loved Los Angeles. To quote Bernard Weintraub, “ Andy Warhol lived in New York, but Los Angeles was his spiritual home.”