Eccentricity and genius go hand in hand, right? Well, so the scientists would have us believe: research suggests that peculiar habits and behaviours are quirky side-effects of the kind of clever thinking that gets the Big Results. And as artistic oomph goes, one of the Twentieth Century Greats has to be Andy Warhol – everybody’s favourite mop-headed Pop Art supremo. So, other than screen-printing his way into every student bedroom in the Western World, what did our Andy get up to?
The trash man
Before you throw out this week’s trash, think again: Warhol was undisputed King of the Pack-Rats. Things he collected? Airplane menus, unpaid invoices, pizza dough, pornographic pulp novels, newspapers, stamps, supermarket flyers, cookie jars… He filled not only his four-storey townhouse, but also a nearby storage unit with what his friends referred to as ‘Andy’s Stuff’ – and the true extent of it wasn’t discovered until after his death. The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh now has 641 boxes of Stuff, aka Warhol’s Time Capsules, aka a very valuable archive. Motto: never declutter!
It’s probably not much of a surprise to hear that Warhol’s iconic hair wasn’t his own – but did you know he actually owned over forty wigs? A New York wig-maker sewed them from hair imported from Italy. When, in 1985, a girl snatched off his wig at a book-signing, Warhol noted in his diary, ‘I don’t know what held me back from pushing her over the balcony.’
From the head to the toes – Warhol had a serious foot fetish. One of the weirder finds in the Time Capsules (along with plenty of drawings of feet and shoes) was a mummified human foot from Ancient Egypt. The curator of anthropology at Carnegie Museum of Natural History reckons he picked it up at a flea market – we’re not so sure what to make of that…
Living on a prayer
As a man known for his sharp, inquisitive mind and fascination with the world, we can forgive you for thinking Warhol might have been an atheist – but, in fact, he was a practising Byzantine Catholic. Not so much a habit as a way of life, sure, but a rather strange one in Andy’s circles. In 1980 he even had an audience with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican. And when he got interested in ‘crystal healing’ he stressed about how it might conflict with his religious faith.
A man of his word
Warhol’s interview technique probably wouldn’t pass muster with your local PR rep. His standard answers to pretty much any questions were, ‘uh, no’, and ‘uh, yes’ – much to the frustration of the art-world media. When one reporter, irritated that he’d calmly agreed that his works weren’t original, asked, ‘Well, isn’t this sort of a joke then that you’re playing on the public’, Warhol replied, ‘No. It gives me something to do.’
There’s no denying Andy was an intriguingly colourful character, but which of his unusual traits most surprised you?