Warhol would often would say to people, “I’m so empty today. I can’t think of any ideas. Can you give me some?” He would then pretend to listen carefully, ultimately rejecting every idea that was given to him. That’s what made Warhol so great: he wouldn’t take other people’s dumb ideas. He had his own dumb ideas which were really much smarter.
The essence of Warhol’s genius was to eliminate the one aspect of a thing without which that thing would, to conventional ways of thinking, cease to be itself, and then to see what happened. He made movies of objects that never moved and used actors who could not act, and he made art that did not look like art. He wrote a novel without doing any writing. He had his mother sign his work, and he sent an actor, Allen Midgette, to impersonate him on a lecture tour (and, for a while, Midgette got away with it). He had other people make his paintings. And he demonstrated, almost every time he did this, that it didn’t make any difference.
What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it. —Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (1975)