PRINT October 2004


Thomas Hirschhorn

I LOVE ANDY WARHOL, AND I LOVE ANDY WARHOL’S WORK. I love Andy Warhol with a love that is exclusionist and egoistic. It is not respect or admiration that I have for Warhol and his work, it is love. Andy Warhol and Joseph Beuys were my professors, even if I didn’t take classes with them. It was thanks to Andy Warhol that I discovered the revolutionary work of Stuart Davis, with its early absorption of the world of advertising and packaging. Andy Warhol dared to say yes.

I first saw a Warhol in 1978, in the Kunsthaus Zürich. It was the painting 129 Die in Jet, from 1962. I immediately felt included: included in the artist’s work; included in art. It was the first time in my life that art had an impact on me, the first time I was directly in dialogue with it. 129 Die in Jet changed my life.

129 Die in Jet showed me that to enlarge something, to make it big, doesn’t necessarily mean it is important. Enlarging something does mean being committed to it. At the same time, this commitment and enlargement create emptiness—they remove meaning. Yet Warhol suggested another kind of meaning, a different meaning. I realized that art gave me the space to think.

In saying yes, Andy Warhol agreed with social and economic reality. Warhol is the artist of agreement. To agree in this sense, though, is to confront oneself with reality as it is. To agree is the precondition for either accepting or refusing something; only by agreeing can one change it. Andy Warhol was courageous. He cooperated with reality in order to change it. He showed me that reality cannot be changed unless you agree with it.

Andy Warhol never deviated from his initial trajectory. From him I learned that only as art can art have real importance; only as art can art have political meaning. An exhibition of Warhol’s early work at the Fondation Cartier, Jouy-en-Josas, France, in 1990 showed me that his art from beginning to end was grounded in being faithful to himself. He developed what he had been at the start, he repeated it, he industrialized it, he exaggerated it, but he remained true to it. It was in doing these things that his work reached its full formal strength and political dimension.

Through his work, constantly and powerfully, Andy Warhol defended the autonomy of art. I always recall something I think he once said: “Don’t cry—work!”

Thomas Hirschhorn, an artist based in Aubervilliers, France, will present 24h Foucault, a project at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris, this month. A monograph on his work is forthcoming from Phaidon.