But Warhol's understanding of the commercialism of the image went further than commentary. He took commercial art and used its techniques to make art commercial, too. A bit like hip-hop does now in music, he made the spectacle of art making money into something of an artwork itself. Rather than the multiple reproductions of each image devaluing each work, somehow more became more. The art economy was turned on its head.
Thirty years after Warhol's death, his are among the most collectible and valuable artworks in the world. Until May, when a work by Jean-Michel Basquiat sold for $110.5-million, Andy Warhol's Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) was the most expensive US artwork ever auctioned ($105-million).
Warhol was so enigmatic and obtuse that it's hard to tell whether his engagement with the commercial side of art was sophisticated, cynical or naive. He loved money and glamour as much as he understood its banality.
Nevertheless, the way in which his artworks directly entered the business arena resulted in a paradoxical situation in which the very works that are supposed to have changed the economics of art have achieved spectacularly high values precisely because they are supposed to have changed it (but clearly haven't).
Somehow, Warhol engineered a situation in which the traditional economics of art simply absorbed the disruption, incorporated it, and carried on regardless. The celebrity culture he commented on did the same.