I'm afraid that if you look at a thing long enough, it loses all of its meaning - Andy Warhol
…there are more galleries than ever, and the power of galleries is greater than ever, and the endless kaleidoscope of fairgrounds, fairs, etc – one fair succeeding another, almost back to back. That wasn’t there when I started criticising the galleries. And I’m still very much opposed to it, this endless need to bring out a new something to attract the attention of the curators, or the critics, or the owners of the galleries - Gustav Metzger
Andy Warhol and Gustav Metzger. Diametrically different, vividly opposed as people and creators, yet united in their singular, stubborn and inborn difference.
On the one hand, Warhol, the king of the modern art economy; on the other Metzger, its virtuous opponent. And, yet, both artists who, in their own way, marketed and self-promoted ingeniously. Fractured mirror images, Warhol the crass capitalist, exalting America, fame, fashion and money, and Metzger, the self-proclaimed “stateless Jew”, from his council flat planning counteroffensives against capitalism, dressed in charity shop couture, humble, hating celebrity, avoiding any light not cast primarily on his art. Two men formed for the post-war world, both secular mystics, both spiritual misfits.
In Meztger’s case self-promotion took the form of deceptive negation, a voiding that from itself emerged a body of work nearly devouring its maker. Sacrificed to a practice based in a personal history of suffering and struggle, Metzger’s self-promotion consisted of creating novel ciphers for himself, be they manifestoes, the “art strike”, or his signature innovation, Auto-destruction, which evolved into Auto-creation.
Warhol said, famously, “I want to be a machine”. Koestler said, “The Ghost in the Machine”, but Warhol was the ghost as the machine: A productive transparency, a virtual banality. Metzger was, really, just a ghost: of his perished family killed in the Holocaust, of a disappearing ordered and moral ethos instilled in him as a child, of the world he walked and wanted to change and challenge.
Importantly, in looking at the lessons they have for us in marketing and self-promotion, despite both engaging technology in novel ways, Warhol and Metzger both largely predated the internet, social media age (Metzger never even owned a television, or telephone, computer or mobile phone, expressly preferring face to face contact).Jeremy Gluck, COPY COPY, 2018, Textbased art
Jeremy Gluck, 2018, EBDB (After Warhol)
Andy Warhol: I am, I think…
Andy Warhol was a pioneer of art as product, but he was also the pioneer of the artist as product: a consumable being, offered as a bloodless (although, in Warhol’s case not entirely, as his shooting by Valerie Solanis would prove) self-sacrifice. To commit this pseudo-suicide there must be one condition: survival in the mass. Erase yourself and you find yourself everywhere. It’s magical, quasi-mystical, and the calling of few. And of those called, most fail to outlive themselves while alive. And they languish. Warhol as an artist was DOA - dead on arrival – and ready to be reborn in matter: his art.
In what way, then, did he promote and market himself?
Art star. Warhol made art synonymous with fame. Sure, he wasn’t the first famous artist, far from it. Picasso, for example, had no problem with boosting himself. But Warhol made himself a brand bigger than Brillo.
Part of Warhol’s marketing and self-promotion –AKA self-marketing or “personal branding – was simply to share, if often obliquely and cryptically – their interest in him. His was a reflective surface, but behind the mirror shades and moves a machine programmed to be human and seem to care about itself functioned with a curious autonomy. What interested Warhol, what he cared about, the cool things he saw and felt people should see and talk about too: all these things he animated. Animation, yes. Warhol cartooned himself. His sharing was lukewarm – or, predictive of social media, should that be “likewarm” – a gruel of softcore sentiment and dyspeptic enthusiasm – but it was therefore insanely sticky. He seemed nervous about sharing himself: how much is too much? Or too little? But because he didn’t exist much, it mattered less. And that was Warhol’s self-marketing: I’m not much to lose. What is lost is found, but in Warhol’s case he lost himself and others found him. What they found he lost again, they found that, and on and on. The Circle of Like. To paraphrase another genius of self-marketing, Bowie, “I’m an art star, I’m a pop art star…”
Andy Warhol’s self-marketing thrived on ubiquity. He was everywhere at once, helped by the fact that, deploying shaded doubles, he could even be there in two places at the same time: quantum celebrity. His humility he demonstrated by revering the celebrities whose autographs he collected, an American genuflection everybody could relate to. By choosing subjects for his art marked by fame he was famous by association, and this strengthened his hand. He did sometimes depict Everyman, but as in Car Crash, it was usually only to vicariously kill them.
Limited and repetitive
Jeremy Gluck, 2018, Limited and Repetitive
Gustav Metzger, Manifesto for ICA Misfits event, 1962
In my own practice I have been inspired supremely by Warhol and Metzger.
My #EBDB (“Everything’s Been Done Before”) series is directly an homage to Warhol, celebrating copyism, art theft and lazy creativity. I love the Factory principle, but in my case my assistants are software and apps.
Gustav Metzger’s marketing and self-promotion took a very different form to that of Warhol, and yet there are (skewed) parallels. Metzger was a lover of performance and publications. Warhol was a performance and eventually a publication: Interview magazine, which was comprised solely of the artist’s interviews with, of course, celebrities. Both artists had a powerful and at the same time transparent presence, and both thrived on attending, each in their different domains, events and happenings. In a word, they were known. This is the most powerful form of marketing possible: I exist. There was nobody else like them, and both epitomised different visions of the nobody: Metzger, the loner, outsider artist whose reputation exceeded his self-abnegation; and Warhol, the loner, insider artist adoration for whom exceeded even his own peculiar self-love.
Warhol marketed his persona by living it to the hilt; Metzger demoted the personal to magnify his work. Warhol knowingly made art apparently disposable but intended for the post-modern pantheon; Metzger intentionally unmade art to denote its lifelike transience: Exhibited today, gone tomorrow. By looking half-dead, Warhol became an icon for eternal life through fame; by being, in his own words, “fully alive”, Metzger cheated the death he willed for his own art via Auto-destruction.
Metzger rejoiced in writing and published and was published voluminously: letters, leaflets, pamphlets, manifestoes, flyers. Always, in his prime, quite crudely and cheaply.
This basic form of self-promotion and marketing was unexceptional for its time and would now have its equivalent in a blog post.
But the power of his persistence, intent and perseverance holds lessons for those determined to be known. To be a somebody. The main thing is not to end up an anybody. Being a nobody is better. Warhol and Metzger understood this well.
Much as Metzger was not consciously interested in marketing and self-promotion, the affect was achieved, and often by inversion: opposition to the art economy, the gallery system, and in his proposal to hold a three year “art strike” from 1977-80, to the making of art itself:
“The artist does not want to give his work to a society as foul as this one. So auto-destructive art becomes a kind of boycott. The artist refuses to embody his finest values in permanent works—to be bought, enjoyed, and appropriated by the class whom he detests—and who is largely responsible for the catastrophe in which we exist.”
As Stewart Home observed in his “The Assault on Culture” (1998), “By refusing to produce art, Metzger was refusing the role of an artist. This single gesture demonstrated the fallacy of popular ideas about artists as individuals possessed by an uncontrollable creative urge. It also showed that it was possible to break with the privileged positions certain militants had come to occupy within capitalist society. Metzger realised what Vaneigem and various other spectro-situationists could only partially theorise—the rejection of roles—and for this alone he will not be forgotten.”
I’ve run my mouth enough already. You write it. (And if it’s good I’ll copy it.)
Jeremy Gluck, rainbow,2017, Textbased art