Barbie, Portrait Of BillyBoy By Andy Warhol, 1986

Barbie, Portrait Of BillyBoy By Andy Warhol, 1986

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Andy Warhol, renowned as one of the most influential figures in American pop art, has unsurprisingly extended his artistic touch to portraying Barbie, a symbol deeply ingrained in pop culture.

One of the final portraits created by Andy Warhol before his passing was an artistic rendition of the quintessential American symbol, the Barbie doll. This unique portrait was brought into existence through a close camaraderie with Billy Boy*, a renowned fashion designer and prominent figure in American society.

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Barbie, Portrait Of BillyBoy – A Unique Icon In Warhol’s Collection

Created in 1986, “Barbie, Portrait of BillyBoy*” represents the final addition to Andy Warhol’s illustrious repertoire of iconic American figures and brands. The painting encapsulates Barbie, an emblem of childhood for over half a century, instantly recognizable and firmly on par with Warhol’s other notable portraits of American pop culture figures like Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and Liz Taylor.

Andy Warhol Holding His Painting Barbie, Portrait Of BillyBoy (1986)

The immortal celebrity of Barbie exemplifies beauty, glamour, and the elixir of eternal youth.

BillyBoy: An Enigmatic Muse Of Andy Warhol

Born on March 10, 1960, BillyBoy* is an American artist, socialite, and fashion designer. He holds a special place in the artistic world as a muse of the legendary pop artist Andy Warhol. BillyBoy*’s story begins in Vienna, where he was adopted by a Russian couple who migrated to New York City when he was merely four years old.

BillyBoy And Andy Warhol

A Foray Into Fashion And Jewelry

In 1979, BillyBoy* embarked on a journey to design and manufacture costume jewelry, launching the label Surreal Bijoux in Paris. His creations found fans in high places – one of his bracelets owned by the iconic actress Elizabeth Taylor was auctioned in 2011, fetching a handsome sum of $6,875.

A Lifelong Affair With Barbie

BillyBoy* is known for his artistic ventures and his unparalleled collection of Barbie and Ken dolls, totaling over 20,000 and counting. His fascination with Barbie culminated in the authorship of the book “Barbie: Her Life and Times” in 1987.

BillyBoy’s love for Barbie was so deep-rooted that from 1984 to 1990, he collaborated with Mattel, the manufacturer of Barbie dolls, to curate two tours called “Le Nouveau Théâtre de la Mode” (New Theatre of Fashion).

His influence in the world of Barbie was such that when Warhol, his close friend, wished to paint him, BillyBoy redirected Warhol’s focus to Barbie instead.

So there is no wonder that when Warhol wanted to paint BillyBoy, he told him:

‘If you want to do my portrait, do Barbie, because Barbie, c’est moi’”


The Intersection Of BillyBoy’s And Warhol’s Artistic Worlds

The lasting impact of BillyBoy*’s contribution to the fashion and art world is undeniable. His life and work represent an intersection of artistic expression, high fashion, and popular culture, making him an intriguing figure in 20th-century art and style.

His interactions with Warhol, resulting in the iconic Barbie portrait, further amplify his influence and underpin the diverse ways popular culture can inspire and shape artistic creation.

A Personal Gift: The Story Behind The Portrait

What distinguishes “Barbie, Portrait of BillyBoy*” is its scarcity and deeply personal provenance. The painting was a gift from Warhol to the young designer and protégé of Jacqueline Onassis. BillyBoy, known for his artistic creativity, made a strong impression on Warhol with his Surreal Couture clothing and Surreal Bijoux jewelry.

For a long time, the Barbie painting hung in BillyBoy’s living room as it was a personal gift from Andy Warhol to him.

A Testament To Friendship And Collaboration

The creation of this unique Barbie portrait was in recognition of BillyBoy‘s “Nouveau Théâtre de la Mode” Barbie. This was the first designer Barbie and the first time a designer’s name was featured on a doll box – a project that Warhol was ‘excited about.’ This particular piece of art, with its striking blue backdrop referred to as BillyBoy Blue, took inspiration from one of BillyBoy*’s Surreal Couture Jackets, which he often wore.

Rarity And Uniqueness In Warhol’s Barbie, Portrait Of BillyBoy

Barbie, Portrait Of BillyBoy (1986) By Andy Warhol

“Barbie, Portrait of BillyBoy*” is an extraordinary rarity within Warhol’s work. Known for his factory-like production style, which created a pervasive canon of imagery for each subject and theme, this piece is one of just two existing Warhol paintings of Barbie.

The other known piece, featuring a ruby-red background, was commissioned later in 1986 by Mattel, the company behind Barbie.

The Lasting Impact Of Barbie, Portrait Of BillyBoy

“Barbie, Portrait of BillyBoy” is not just a painting; it’s a testament to Warhol’s deep-rooted interest in iconic figures and an encapsulation of his ties to the figures he painted.

Another Version Of Barbie, Portrait Of BillyBoy (1986) By Andy Warhol

This blend of friendship, professional admiration, and artistic collaboration has given us a unique piece that stands out in Warhol’s art. Its deep personal context and representation of an icon that has influenced generations make it a significant and enduring piece in the Warhol canon.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What inspired Andy Warhol to create a portrait of Barbie?

Andy Warhol was known for his fascination with popular culture and iconic symbols. Barbie, being a quintessential American cultural icon, served as a fitting subject for Warhol’s artistic expression.

Who is Billy Boy, and what was his connection to Andy Warhol’s Barbie portrait?

Billy Boy was a prominent fashion designer and a notable figure in American society. His close friendship and collaboration with Andy Warhol led to the creation of the Barbie portrait in 1986.

Why did Andy Warhol choose Barbie as a subject for one of his final portraits?

Barbie represented a symbol of American culture and consumerism. Warhol, known for his interest in mass-produced and widely recognized images, found Barbie to be an ideal subject for his art.

How did the collaboration between Andy Warhol and Billy Boy influence the Barbie portrait?

The collaboration between Andy Warhol and Billy Boy brought a unique perspective to the Barbie portrait. Billy Boy’s influence, as a fashion designer and cultural figure, likely contributed to the distinct aesthetic of the artwork.

What artistic techniques did Andy Warhol employ in the creation of the Barbie portrait?

Warhol’s signature style often involved the use of vibrant colors, repetition, and silk-screening techniques. These elements are likely present in the Barbie portrait, showcasing Warhol’s distinctive approach.

Is the Barbie portrait considered a significant work in Andy Warhol’s oeuvre?

Yes, the Barbie portrait is regarded as a noteworthy piece in Warhol’s later works. It reflects his continued engagement with popular culture and his ability to transform everyday objects into art.

How did the public and art community respond to Andy Warhol’s Barbie portrait?

The reception of the Barbie portrait varied, with some praising Warhol’s ability to elevate a mass-produced object to the status of high art, while others may have critiqued the commercialization of his artistic practice.

Did Andy Warhol’s Barbie portrait have any cultural or social implications at the time of its creation?

The portrait of Barbie, being an iconic representation of femininity and consumer culture, likely sparked discussions about gender roles, consumerism, and the influence of popular culture on art.

Is the Barbie portrait housed in any particular art institution or collection?

The location of the Barbie portrait may vary, as artworks often change hands through private collections or auctions. Checking with major art institutions or galleries may provide information on its current whereabouts.

How does Andy Warhol’s Barbie portrait contribute to the broader conversation about pop art in the 1980s?

In the context of 1980s pop art, Warhol’s Barbie portrait serves as a continuation of his exploration of consumer culture. It adds to the dialogue surrounding the intersection of art, commerce, and popular imagery during that era.

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