Andy Warhol's Art and Fame Machine

"20/20" profiles the American pop artist on April 10, 1980.
12:01 | 02/20/12

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Transcript for Andy Warhol's Art and Fame Machine
Who is the best known and certainly the most controversial artist in America today. I'll give some -- he -- dollar bills Coke bottles Marilyn Monroe and this. Campbell's soup -- Andy Warhol that's -- -- makes our out of everyday things and he uses many media you blink and he's doing something new. Lately a major art opening and publication of his first book of photographs. And now just out another book called -- isn't about his life and friends in the sixties. Well tonight 22 -- -- looks into the weird world of Andy Warhol. Although Andy Warhol's Davis -- around the world. People -- seen behind his public -- criticized. Commercial self promoters and he remains a private person. A combination of publicity -- publicity whirlwind. He uses his shyness to superb effect making connections -- -- of course correct. Figures just. He gets to know every war. Despite the fact that he rarely talks and never commit to. We carried a camera and the tape recorder. -- -- quiet them inarticulate. Handed it to him to field observers. She. -- -- -- -- -- He has always had a -- mentality. -- -- -- If you -- -- I mean yeah. With his distinctive color -- things and he always stands out but it's his philosophy that -- -- -- for fifty million. This is famous historical listeners -- star and his only artist ever in the history there has been -- He's really elevated -- to a higher level of fame is more famous now than it was before -- -- and people can get more famous and famous more meaningful. And although any I'm sure said that you know hearing what he said Evans can be -- fifteen minutes she knows and he's been famous for fifteen years. Actually it was thirty years ago when this healing arts. -- -- -- -- -- -- He became a fashion illustrator throwing shoes -- glamour vogue and Harper's bizarre. He was hard working and dependable and motives for his originality and imagination. Determined to attract the attention of the serious artwork. He experimented with -- dollar bills and newspaper headlines. Even electric chair. But it was his -- also appears that caught on everywhere. You think of them by hand but one of more of an assembly line effect and so he began using -- camera and -- screening the food. And it was. -- -- Here's some news hands of -- for those boxes bottles of Coca-Cola. And all kinds of things which ordinary people don't think of as being worthy of artistic treatment and I think that and it took these. And somehow he made them into unforgettable images he gave them -- completely new look. This silk -- the repetitive image and personalities. Had become his trademark he cut out pictures of stars for magazines and made them distinctively his own. His studio was called the factory. Well named because Andy had a large staff of assistants -- was cranking out canvases that by now we're in huge demand. The factory also became a center of underground -- making. And Eddie was seen around town with the flamboyant stars of his movies ultraviolet. -- Hollywood loan. Yes one of sixteen movies and -- -- in one year exemplifies the war all moviemaking technique. Silent black and white unedited film the dwelled on a single thing. Some like sleep and empire lasted six hours and often -- -- raged audiences demanded their money back. In 1968. And it was more controversial than ever. They're assassinations and that violent year Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. And Andy was nearly killed shot by an actress -- been in his movies it took -- years to recover. By the seventies his portraits were taking on a new look and commanding huge prices 50000 dollars for -- commissioned portrait. Money that allowed him to branch out into cable television. Writing and publishing primarily a magazine called interview. As -- Kuwait and we'll just took the picture will be bigger very. So -- the design awards today. Ahead. After ten years of losing money. The magazine is finally turning a profit and he is publisher of interview Bob -- -- -- the -- -- -- -- You're putting words in my -- Activate you have to -- -- And he recently came up with his first book of photographs called exposures. And gave a party at the factory to celebrate its publication. The book is photographs of Andy's friends. His idea of a good picture. One of a famous person doing something un famous. It's being in the right place at the wrong time. Promoted and he set off on a cross country. It's -- -- -- and -- best part is publicity. -- -- -- OK. And -- people. -- Has insisted it absolutely everything it's a wonderful kind of -- -- today. I mean he just you know lots of things which -- You know filling up his brain for his -- And -- is the first. Legal art -- since the console and -- For the second time in less than a decade the Whitney museum in New York has mounted a major exhibition of Warhol's portraits. Except for the -- -- most. These are paintings commissioned by rich and fashionable people for Andy Warhol is now America's most sought after portrait -- He -- as he -- -- did when I traveled to laugh and circular come on old fashioned American. We're definitive when I went to different cities for the magazine. It's that kind of product would have to do there is where the puck over honor we -- -- to do. Just now finished congress. People look at annuals -- and they say to themselves but this and that friends I think photographs I could do something like that I think what they -- -- -- consideration. Is an incredible amount of experience that lies behind the work the simplicity that's only. Apparent I think it's the meaning of -- and trading of the -- it's political. It's a place that. And only 1520 artists of the generation have that in the. I don't consider that he's been -- -- incidents -- promotional. But -- look -- worked out quite independent hasn't contributed much through the development. The propelled test for the greater good faith. Is seeing -- whole museum's role of alarm and then the thinness. Is of our -- students -- museum of its -- whether a gallery full. Finally a big -- When asked to defend himself against his critics he replied in his typical deadpan way. -- -- -- And this -- we'll get off your -- Carter yeah. It -- it would make a better -- Farrah Fawcett over recent trip to New York came to LD student to have her portrait. We are -- -- you're so beautiful. -- somewhat nervous told him that you've studied his work -- -- do. And was eager to -- for it. -- -- -- Or hold portraits Begin with a series of Polaroid. It's snapshots which are blown up printed on plastic sheets and turned -- silk screens. Using this -- and it turns out as many as 25 commissioned portraits a year if you if you couple books. Let's six. After forty pictures and he captured the look was. But his sessions often require as many as 300 shots -- America will make them harder. They'll they'll come up and news event itself I think what because we -- recorder. -- -- -- Hopefully -- would just yeah yeah. Yeah -- really we've demonstrated. Two weeks later -- enlargement were back and -- began to paint. Process which up until now he has never shown or talked about. It was a Baptist athletes and they just -- Trace of them and this. It's True Blue. -- has always worked with assistance and usually things two hours -- day in the afternoon. And that's good that's. -- -- Blue. And did everything -- this -- war but it. It clear that -- style has changed dramatically from his hand painted shoes. To -- soup cans to a technique that combined mass production with painting by hand. Perez portrait marked his stuff today. And it's. That's not sit back and I feel better think about it. There are really three -- world. The commercial illustrator of the fifties the social commentator of the sixties and the society archivist of the sevens. Still he defies anyone label. What is clear is that Andy Warhol whose only looked never change. Is his own best work of art. A -- just like to have the same breakfast I have friends. Walked over fences and -- And do the same pain. In the same thing every during.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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