In 2014 the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University acquired a phenomenal number of Andy Warhol photographs from the artist’s foundation.
This rare archive of contact sheets – the photographic print of all the negatives from a roll of film used so a photographer can select which images to develop – offers an insight into Warhol’s back-and-white photographic practice from 1976 up until his death in 1987.
The collection of 3,600 contact sheets equates to about 130,000 exposures (images) that Warhol shot on his Minox 35EL camera. The American Pop artist loved to visually document his everyday existence, from the quotidian and his extensive travels to parties and hanging out with his many celebrity friends.
An archive such as this provides both a unique insight into an artist’s life as well as the development of their artistic practice. The works that will be on view are made even more enthralling as they retain the trace of the artist’s hand, with marks of X’s or circling indicating which images Warhol wanted to be printed.
The exhibition highlights the many famous cultural figures Warhol worked with and encountered during his lifetime. Featuring music legends Michael Jackson, Debbie Harry, John Lennon and Dolly Parton as well as emerging artists of the time like Keith Haring, the black-and-white works paint a colorful picture of Warhol’s glitterati entourage.
“This exhibition allows viewers to experience Warhol’s photography in a depth and detail never before possible,” said Peggy Phelan, Stanford professor and co-curator of the show along with Richard Meyer.
In addition to the contact sheets, the exhibition will also feature a number of candid color portraits of famous faces, including Liza Minnelli and Jean-Michel Basquiat – Warhol’s protege. These Polaroid portraits are particularly important as they form the basis of Warhol’s silk-screen works.
Visitors will be able to delve deeper into the archive through an interactive touchscreen display, zooming in on contact sheets and creating virtual prints.
“This component of the exhibition will allow visitors to recapture the intended function of the contact sheets – namely to look frame by frame at Warhol’s exposures in order decide which ones are worthy of becoming photographs in their own right,” said Meyer.
Coinciding with the exhibition will be the launch of a digital online database of Warhol’s photographic work that has been two-and-a-half years in the making. A book examining the importance of these rare works in Warhol’s oeuvre will also be co-published by the Cantor Arts Center and MIT Press.
Here’s just a small taster of what you can expect.
Contact Warhol: Photography Without End is at the Cantor Arts Center, 328 Lomita Drive, Stanford, CA 94305 from September 29 2018 to January 6 2019. Free entry.
Want to see more Andy Warhol art? The Whitney will host the first Andy Warhol retrospective since 1989.