Andy Warhol Probably Never Said His Celebrated “Fifteen Minutes of Fame” Line

In the interest of branding, however, it doesn’t matter who said it, only that it worked

Photo: Jack Mitchell

"In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes." This celebrated quote has become Andy Warhol most well-known statement. It led to the concept of "15 minutes of fame"—the idea that celebrity, from media scandals to memes, will almost always be fleeting.

According to new evidence, however, it very well could be that Warhol never said this. 

The original quote seems to trace back to a 1968 brochure Warhol distributed at one of his exhibitions in Sweden. But, according to art critic Blake Gopnik, it could have been Pontus Hultén, a famous curator in Europe, who coined the phrase. There are other claimants, too, including painter Larry Rivers and photographer Nat Finkelstein. Finkelstien insisted that he made the remark in reply to a comment that Warhol made about everyone wanting to be famous, quipping, "Yeah, for about 15 minutes, Andy." 

As Gopnik explains to Marketplace, Warhol himself admitted to never saying it in 1980. But by then, the line was firmly his. And as Gopnik points out, it really didn't matter. By that point, Warhol, an artist who explored the concept of branding, was firmly a brand of his own, and the 15-minutes quote fit in with that story nicely. "We've decided it's by Warhol, whether he likes it or not," Gopnik told Marketplace. "We've created and continue to create the Warhol brand for ourselves." 

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