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15 minutes of fame

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Quote on a building in Rotterdam.

15 minutes of fame is short-lived media publicity or celebrity of an individual or phenomenon. The expression was inspired by a quotation misattributed to Andy Warhol: "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes." Attributed to two other people, the first printed use was in the program for a 1968 exhibition of Warhol's work at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Sweden.[1] 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.

An older version of the same concept in English is the expression "nine days' wonder." This phrase dates at least as far back as the Elizabethan era, referencing William Kempe.[2]



Warhol's alleged quotation first appeared in print in a program for his 1968 exhibit at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Sweden. In the autumn of 1967, Pontus Hultén (the director for the Moderna Museet) asked Olle Granath to help with the production of the exhibit, which was due to open in February 1968. Granath was tasked with writing a program for the exhibit, complete with Swedish translations. He was given a box of writings by and about Warhol to use for the program. Granath claims that submitting his manuscript, Hultén asked him to insert the quote: "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes." To which Granath replied that quote was not in the material he was given. Hultén replied, "if he didn’t say it, he could very well have said it. Let’s put it in."[3]

Photographer Nat Finkelstein claimed 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."[4]

The phrase "quart-d'heure de célébrité" (fifteen minutes of fame) was used in French during the 19th century, notably by Alphonse Daudet in an article, "Villemessant", first published in 1879: "de braves garçons [...] ont eu, pour une heureuse trouvaille de quinze lignes, leur quart-d'heure de célébrité" ("some young fellows have had [...] thanks to fifteen cleverly-written lines, their fifteen minutes of fame".[5] Another French phrase, with the same meaning, "quart-d'heure de popularité" (fifteen minutes of popularity) appears in 1821, in Histoire de l'Assemblée constituante (tome premier), by Charles Lacretelle: "le tribun [...], pour un quart-d'heure de popularité, portait le premier coup de hache sur nos monuments" ("the orator [...], for fifteen minutes of popularity, dealt the first blow to our monuments") [6]



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.[7]

On the other hand, wide proliferation of the adapted idiom "my fifteen minutes"[8][9][10][11] 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.[12][13] 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."

There is a third and 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 their "fifteen minutes."[14]

John Langer suggests that 15 minutes of fame is an enduring concept because it permits everyday activities to become "great effects."[15] 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.[15]

Derivative phrases


On their 1987 album Yoyo, Bourgeois Tagg have a song called "15 Minutes In The Sun" that is a direct reference to the Warhol statement. [16]

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."[17] 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,"[18] 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".[19] This quote, though attributed to David Weinberger, was said[19] to have originated with the Scottish artist Momus.[20]

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.

In 1993, the British techno/industrial music group Sheep on Drugs released a single "15 Minutes of Fame" which reached the lower reaches of the UK Singles Chart.[21]

Musician and actor Tim Minchin refers to the phrase (and to Warhol explicitly) in his song "15 minutes", wherein the phrase "15 minutes of shame" is sung repeatedly to describe the phenomenon of online shaming.[22]

See also



  1. ^ Guinn and Perry, p. 4
  2. ^ Martin, Gary. "The meaning and origin of the expression: Nine days' wonder". The Phrase Finder. Retrieved July 25, 2021.
  3. ^ Granath, Olle. "With Andy Warhol 1968". modernamuseet.se. Archived from the original on August 11, 2020. Retrieved July 15, 2021.
  4. ^ Guinn and Perry, pp. 364—65
  5. ^ Trente ans de Paris. Marpon et Flammarion. 1889. pp. 25–44.
  6. ^ "Histoire de l'Assemblée constituante". Paris, Treuttel. 1821.
  7. ^ Buchloh, Benjamin H. D. (December 1, 2001). "Andy Warhol's One-Dimensional Art: 1956–1966". In Michelson, Annette (ed.). Andy Warhol. The MIT Press. p. 28. ISBN 978-0-262-63242-3.
  8. ^ Bragman, Howard (2005). Where's My Fifteen Minutes?: Get Your Company, Your Cause, or Yourself the Recognition You Deserve. Portfolio. ISBN 978-1-59184-236-1.
  9. ^ Stockler, Bruce (2004). I Sleep at Red Lights: A True Story of Life After Triplets. St. Martin's Griffin. p. 124. ISBN 978-0-312-31529-0.
  10. ^ Bryars, Betsy Cromer (1986). The Pinballs. Scholastic. p. 80. ISBN 978-0-590-40728-1.
  11. ^ Mamatas, Nick (2003). 3000 MPH In Every Direction At Once: Stories and Essays. Wildside Press. p. 24. ISBN 978-1-930997-31-8.
  12. ^ Frederick Levy, 15 Minutes of Fame: Becoming a Star in the YouTube Revolution, Penguin Group, 2008, ISBN 978-1-59257-765-1.
  13. ^ van de Rijt, A.; Shor, E.; Ward, C.; Skiena, S. (2013). "Only 15 Minutes? The Social Stratification of Fame in Printed Media". American Sociological Review. 78 (2): 266–289. doi:10.1177/0003122413480362. S2CID 17178599.
  14. ^ Jason, Sybil (2005). My Fifteen Minutes: An Autobiography of a Child Star of the Golden Era of Hollywood. BearManor Media. ISBN 978-1-59393-023-3.
  15. ^ a b John Langer, Tabloid television: popular journalism and the "other news", Routledge, 1998, ISBN 978-0-415-06636-5, page 51, 63, 73
  16. ^ "Yoyo by Bourgeois Tagg". Discogs. October 4, 1987.
  17. ^ Peltz, Jennifer (March 1, 2004). "Aiken and Clarkson show off Idol mettle". Archived from the original on July 10, 2012. Retrieved May 27, 2008.
  18. ^ "DENNIS HOPPER ART COLLECTION AUCTION". October 19, 2010. Retrieved June 25, 2014.
  19. ^ a b Weinberger, David (July 23, 2005). "Famous to fifteen people". Archived from the original on December 14, 2006. Retrieved December 21, 2006.
  20. ^ Momus (1991). "POP STARS? NEIN DANKE! In the future everyone shall be famous for fifteen people..." Grimsby Fishmarket. Archived from the original on September 27, 2008. Retrieved October 7, 2008.
  21. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 495. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  22. ^ "15 Minutes by Tim Minchin". YouTube. December 31, 2018. Archived from the original on December 12, 2021. Retrieved January 1, 2019.


  • Guinn, Jeff and Douglas Perry (2005). The Sixteenth Minute: Life In the Aftermath of Fame. New York, Jeremy F. Tarcher/Penguin (a member of The Penguin Group). ISBN 9781585423897.
  • Patterson, Dale (2013). Fifteen Minutes of Fame: History's One-Hit Wonders. Red Deer Press. ISBN 9780889954816.