|Gallery's Newly Acquired Warhol Photos Enrich College's Teaching Collection
August 06, 2008
Contact: Bill Giduz
The holidays came early this year for Davidson's Van Every/Smith Galleries, and the gift enriches the whole campus. The institution just received 161 photographs by the late Andy Warhol as part of a distribution of the artist's work to colleges and universities nationwide by the Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.
|A Polaroid study of the model Carol Soffer.|
Brad Thomas, gallery director and curator, said that Warhol is considered by many as one of the most important artists of the 20th century. Warhol, who died in 1987, was noted worldwide for his work as a painter, avant-garde filmmaker, record producer, author and public figure. He enjoyed membership in diverse social circles that included street people, intellectuals, Hollywood celebrities and aristocrats.
In the 1960s Warhol began to make stylized paintings of consumer products such as Campbell's soup cans and Coca-Cola bottles, as well as paintings of celebrities like Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor. He was quoted as saying, "What's great about this country is that... the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You know that the President drinks Coca Cola, Liz Taylor drinks Coca-Cola, and just think, you can drink Coca-Cola, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking."
Warhol dubbed his studio "The Factory," and hosted there artists, writers, musicians and underground celebrities. It took on a factory feel as he switched from painting to silkscreen so he could produce mass quantities of work. By minimizing the role of his own hand in the production and declaring that he wanted to be "a machine," Warhol sparked a revolution in art. He also minimized his own participation in the enterprise, claiming that everyone sooner or later has "15 minutes of fame."
|John Gould and Victor Hugo on a surfboard.|
The Warhol Foundation distributed more than 28,000 pieces of the artist's photographs, valued at about $28 million, to celebrate its 20th anniversary. Foundation President Joel Wachs said the goal of this Photographic Legacy Program is to provide greater access to the artist's work. A total of more than 28,000 photographs were donated. Davidson and other institutions were invited to apply for the work, and the Foundation selected 183 as recipients.
Thomas explained that the Davidson portfolio contains about 100 4"x 3" Polaroid color portraits of a few models, and about 60 8"x10" gelatin silver prints. Thomas said the Polaroids were more than likely studies for Warhol's well-known silkscreen prints and paintings. The black and white photographic prints in the collection were accumulated as an ongoing photographic diary of Warhol's life. "He constantly carried a camera," Thomas said. "He took thousands of pictures of friends, strangers and mundane everyday things. He used no filter in his practice. He was very prolific and captured almost everything on film."
The prints include images of celebrities like the soccer player Pele, socialite Diane Von Furstenberg, Bianca Jagger, cartoonist Gary Trudeau, Joe Strummer of the Clash, Rick Ocasek of the Cars, and model Jerry Hall, who was also Mick Jagger's wife. Other images include ferryboats, a dog, friends at the beach and party scenes.
Thomas granted that some people may not find the images very compelling, but emphasized their value to the college. "Placing individual opinions aside, it's an important gift from an institutional point of view because of Warhol's prominence in American art history," said Thomas. "Warhol wasn't afraid of the mundane. He relished it. That's why he painted his first soup can. It bridged a gap between art and commercialism. He wanted to connect with people on a mass scale. A soup can isn't that interesting. But if you paint one 1,000 times it may very well assume a significance beyond its own reality."
|Street scene with a dog.|
Though about 20% of the college's 3,000 piece permanent collection consists of photographs, these are the first pieces by Warhol to be included. Thomas said the work, mostly from the 1970s and 1980s, represents a time period not covered by many other photographic works.
Thomas and Assistant Curator Jessica Cooley will catalog and scan the new photographs. Some will eventually be exhibited at Davidson, and some may be loaned to other museums for their Warhol exhibitions. Davidson professors who want to show the work to their students will also have access to the collection by appointment.
|(l-r) Bianca Jagger, Steve Rubell and an unidentified man.|
Thomas praised the Warhol Foundation for making the work accessible. "By sending the work to institutions of higher learning nationwide, the material is invigorated," he said. "It won't just be sitting in the dark in the foundation's collection storage any more. In many cases, it will take on a life of its own being out where people can view and enjoy it in exhibitions. In addition, people will study it and possibly compare notes, renewing Warhol scholarship and leading us to a greater understanding of this groundbreaking artist."
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,700 students located 20 minutes north of Charlotte in Davidson, N.C. Since its establishment in 1837 by Presbyterians, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently regarded as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country. Through The Davidson Trust, the college became the first liberal arts institution in the nation to replace loans with grants in all financial aid packages, giving all students the opportunity to graduate debt-free. Davidson competes in NCAA athletics at the Division I level, and a longstanding Honor Code is central to student life at the college.
Posted By: Bill Giduz