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15 minutes of fame

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15 minutes of fame is short-lived media publicity or celebrity of an individual or phenomenon. The expression was inspired by Andy Warhol's words "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes", which appeared in the program for a 1968 exhibition of his work at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Sweden. Photographer Nat Finkelstein claims credit for the expression, stating that he was photographing Warhol in 1966 for a proposed book. A crowd gathered trying to get into the pictures and Warhol supposedly remarked that everyone wants to be famous, to which Finkelstein replied, "Yeah, for about fifteen minutes, Andy." The phenomenon is often used in reference to figures in the entertainment industry or other areas of popular culture, such as reality television and YouTube.


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The statement may be an adaptation of an idea by Marshall McLuhan explaining how TV differs from other media using contestants. An older version of the same concept in English is the expression "nine days' wonder", which dates at least as far back as the Elizabethan era.

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German art historian Benjamin H. D. Buchloh suggests that the core tenet of Warhol's aesthetic, being "the systematic invalidation of the hierarchies of representational functions and techniques" of art, corresponds directly to the belief that the "hierarchy of subjects worthy to be represented will someday be abolished," hence anybody, and therefore "everybody," can be famous once that hierarchy dissipates, "in the future," and by logical extension of that, "in the future, everybody will be famous," and not merely those individuals worthy of fame.

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On the other hand, wide proliferation of the adapted idiom "my fifteen minutes" and its entrance into common parlance have led to a slightly different application, having to do with both the ephemerality of fame in the information age and, more recently, the democratization of media outlets brought about by the advent of the internet. In this formulation, Warhol's quote has been taken to mean: "At the present, because there are so many channels by which an individual might attain fame, albeit not enduring fame, virtually anyone can become famous for a brief period of time."

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There is a third and even more remote interpretation of the term, as used by an individual who has been legitimately famous or skirted celebrity for a brief period of time, that period of time being his or her "fifteen minutes."

John Langer suggests that 15 minutes of fame is an enduring concept because it permits everyday activities to become "great effects." Tabloid journalism and the paparazzi have accelerated this trend, turning what may have before been isolated coverage into continuing media coverage even after the initial reason for media interest has passed.

Derivative phrases

In the song "I Can't Read", released by David Bowie's Tin Machine in their 1989 debut album and re-released by Bowie in 1997 for the soundtrack of the movie The Ice Storm, the phrase is used in direct reference to Andy Warhol: "Andy, where's my 15 minutes?" The age of reality television has seen the comment wryly updated as: "In the future, everyone will be obscure for 15 minutes." The British artist Banksy has made a sculpture of a TV that has, written on its screen, "In the future, everyone will be anonymous for 15 minutes," which was later used in the lyrics of Robbie Williams' song "The Actor" from his 2006 album Rudebox.

A more recent adaptation of Warhol's quip, possibly prompted by the rise of online social networking, blogging, and internet celebrity, is the claim that "In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people" or, in some renditions, "On the Web, everyone will be famous to fifteen people". This quote, though attributed to David Weinberger, was said to have originated with the Scottish artist Momus.

The Marilyn Manson song "I Don't Like the Drugs (But the Drugs Like Me)", released on his 1998 album Mechanical Animals, alludes to the term in the line "We're rehabbed and we're ready for our fifteen minutes of shame", as part of the song's theme of unrepentant escapism through drugs.

Also the group Queensryche uses the words "I guess Warhol wasn't wrong / Fame fifteen Minutes Long" in their famous 1988 anti-hero telltale album Operation: Mindcrime song, as a way of showing the deterioration of society to reach its aim.


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