Andy Warhol Photos Bring Pop Icon’s Influence to University’s Permanent Collection

Andy Warhol is an artist of many mediums—painting, film, books and photography—who is often remembered as much for his art as for his influence on pop culture. After all, he did take common American products such as Campbell’s Soup cans and Coca-Cola and turn them into art in the 1960s.

As the debate of Warhol’s art and influence remains popular in the art world, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. To commemorate the anniversary, the Andy Warhol

Photographic Legacy Program was established and made an unprecedented gift of 28,543 original Warhol photographs to 183 college and university art museums across the U.S., an overall gift valued in excess of $28 million.

Warhol 1USC Upstate was fortunate to be selected as one of the recipients and recently took possession of 152 original Warhol photographs, original Polaroid photographs and gelatin silver prints. “Andy Warhol is recognized as a pop artist icon and having his original work in the permanent collection at USC Upstate is an exciting and unprecedented opportunity for a university of our age and size,” said Jane Nodine, professor of art and director of the University Gallery. “We look forward to promoting and making public the collection through exhibition and research venues in the near future.”

The intent of donating Warhol’s photographs is to provide greater access to his artwork and process, and to enable a wide range of people from communities across the country to view and study this important yet relatively unknown body of Warhol’s work. The program offers institutions that do not have the means to acquire works by Warhol the opportunity to bring a significant number of photographs into their permanent collections.

“It’s one thing to read about Andy Warhol and his art work in class, but to actually have a sample of his work here on campus is very special,” said Laura Buchanan, a senior from Lyman. “Having the Andy Warhol photographs on campus gives every student the chance to see work from famous artists without having to travel to New York or Europe.”

Dr. Rachel Snow, assistant professor of art history, notes that her History of Photography and Twentieth Century Art classes will be able to conduct research on original Warhol photographs. For example, art education majors can use the photographs to write unique lesson plans that allow students to think about how popular culture relates to fine art culture. Art studio majors can use these images to think about how to organize and design art exhibitions and how to research and write educational materials that will help the public get the most out of such an exhibition.

In addition to opening up a variety of independent study opportunities to students, including the opportunity to help catalog, research and write about art using primary sources, these photographs will bring more attention to USC Upstate’s already outstanding collection of original artwork, which includes a number of valuable Jerry Uelsmann photographs and a substantial number of paintings by the well-known and respected artist Beatrice Riese.

Warhol 2“Unlike photographs that have negatives that allow them to be reproduced in great quantities, these Polaroids are unique images that are made and developed in the camera, they have no negative from which other copies can be made,” said Snow. “These truly are one-of-a-kind photographs.”

Snow referenced Polaroid’s recent announcement that the company will discontinue producing the kinds of cameras and supplies Warhol used to produce these images.

“Although we have all seen and are familiar with Polaroid instant photographs, one or two generations from now, these once ubiquitous images will seem as unfamiliar and curious to viewers as other, now defunct modes of making photographs (such as Daguerreotypes) seem to us now, ” said Snow.

Warhol would often shoot a person or event with both cameras, cropping one in Polaroid color as a “photograph” and snapping the other in black and white as a “picture.” By presenting both kinds of images side by side, viewers can move back and forth between moments of Warhol’s “art,” “work” and “life” —inseparable parts of a fascinating whole.

“A wealth of information about Warhol’s process and his interactions with his sitters is revealed in these images,” said Jenny Moore, curator of the Photographic Legacy Program. “Through his rigorous—though almost unconscious—consistency in shooting, the true idiosyncrasies of his subjects were revealed.”

Nodine is currently working on exhibit space for the Warhol Collection and expects to have an opening in fall 2008.

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