Romantic Advice from Andy Warhol
One of the art world’s most eccentric minds was also deeply interested in love, marriage and sexuality.
“I wonder if it’s possible to have a love affair that lasts forever,” Andy Warhol once pondered. The question reflects one of the greatest paradoxes of love and its correspondence with desire. It’s a question which occupied the mind of the extravagant artist for a good part of his life. For many, love relationships have a necessary expiration, at least as regards sexual desire and eroticism. Warhol went further, and his lucid love advice may be, even today, rather illuminating.
Many believe that Warhol simply despised love or, at least, that he didn’t feel particularly susceptible to it. A more thorough review of his writings and interviews reveals that the artist did feel a genuine concern for this feeling and some of the issues accompanying it, among them sex and marriage. One of the main sources for approaching Warhol’s thought is his 1975 autobiography, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol – From A to B and Back Again. One notices at moments a dislike for vertiginous feelings like affection. But, as an intimate text, it also reflects a firm belief that mutual respect is one of the most important attributes in a couple, with also a taste for the mysteries of passion and for loving devotion. For Warhol, what was always relevant was to question what makes a relationship meaningful, sustainable and, above all, lasting.
One of the clearest assumptions in Warhol’s autobiography is that one person can’t expect another to be a salvation, or to fix one’s life. One of the chapters deals with love and senility. Here, Warhol says that an early education on topics like love and sex would avoid disappointments far into the future. “There should be a course in the first grade on love,” he says. Such a course should point out realities like the fact that relationships are never perfect, nor always easy, or even pleasurable. What we see in movies and on television about what love should be, according to Warhol, is but a promise of disillusionment. It’s unrelated to reality: love implies good and bad times, positive things but also negative.
Among Warhol’s most interesting ideas for couples is the role of fantasy, both within love and within the erotic. (His lessons on sexuality are here.) “Fantasy love is much better than reality love.” In just this remark, Warhol seems to say that imagination is a vital ingredient for keeping attraction alive between a couple. It’s clear to Warhol that that which exists in the head is more important than what happens in the physical world: anticipation can be much better than the event itself. “The most exciting thing is not-doing-it. If you fall in love with someone and you never do it, it’s much more fascinating.”
Spontaneity, at the moment of falling in love, is another ingredient Warhol considered vital to a love relationship. The secret is to fall in love without thinking too much, without appealing to reason or planning. “Just close your eyes. Don’t look,” he maintained. Warhol also admired the ability of those who could have sex and at the same time, keep their minds blank.
Making time for oneself, even when we’re in couples, is another bit of advice from the artist. While he recommended falling in love deeply and without fear, he also maintained that it’s prudent for each to have his or her own space. Paradoxically, that’s the price of love. For Warhol, to have someone with you all the time means to sacrifice loneliness —the best way to be (when there’s still always room in the bed to be comfortable). The success of any relationship is then, this healthy distance.
Finally, Andy Warhol says that within any couple, both parties need to invest the same energy and time into the relationship. This might sound obvious but it’s perhaps one of the hardest things to achieve. Despite all his usual ironic pessimism, the king of pop art knew how to analyze love relationships in depth, and with an impressive lucidity. Above all, he knew how to look for the finest balance that sharing a life with another person requires.
Image: Jack Mitchell
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