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World Famous for 15 Minutes

What might Andy Warhol think about the new culture of the social media celebrity?

From the top: Ron Galella/WireImage/Getty Images; AFFER/RCS/CONTRASTO/Redux; Elliott Erwitt/Magnum Photos

Fans and paparazzi jumped at the chance to get a photo of Warhol, who worked hard to develop and maintain his brand.

You don’t have to be an award-winning actress or a pro basketball player to be a celebrity these days—all you need is a social media account. Internet personalities, people who post their views on everything from video games to fashion, have amassed millions of followers. They rely on Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube to sell themselves. But long before these sites were invented, Andy Warhol had already mastered the art of self-promotion.

Warhol began his career as a commercial artist. He learned the importance of brand identity in successfully selling a product. Warhol became famous for his now instantly recognizable, colorful paintings of iconic American products and people, from Campbell’s Soup to Elvis Presley. He examined society’s—and his own—obsession with popular culture and celebrity in his artwork. Warhol’s New York City studio became a gathering place for the rich and famous, whom Warhol photographed, recorded audio of, filmed, and wrote about.

In 1968, Warhol stated, “In the future, everyone will be world famous for 15 minutes.” Some people feel that his prediction has come true and that Warhol himself helped usher in an era where anyone can become a short-lived celebrity online. These celebrities often use social media to present a carefully crafted public version of themselves. They curate the videos, images, and comments they post to maintain their brand identities. Internet-famous celebrities also often get paid to endorse products, restaurants, and more.

Warhol used his celebrity and a variety of media to reach a wide audience. He saw art as a business—one he was very successful at. Internet celebrities use social media to curate their own brands, but does that make them artists?

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