Everyone has looked at a mesmerizing painting and wondered where the idea for it came from. But most people never get the chance to find out.
A gift from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts is providing a senior art history major the opportunity to research 153 original Andy Warhol photographs that were given to the Joel and Lila Harnett Print Study Center. The organization distributed more than 28,500 of them among 183 art museums at colleges and universities throughout the United States, in celebration of the organization's 20th anniversary. Collectively, the photos are valued at more than $28 million.
The exhibition of the photos, "Warhol's Photographs and Pictures: Selections from the Gift of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts," is scheduled to be on display this spring, from March 20 to May 22. Senior Lucy Green will be curating the exhibit and researching the photographs to use as the subject of her senior thesis. Little is known about Warhol's vast collection of photos and it's Green's goal to uncover as much information as possible.
The gift includes 102 polaroids and 51 black-and-white gelatin prints. Members of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts counted on the fact that the photos would be used and researched at schools, rather than sitting in a larger encyclopedia museum, said Elizabeth Schlatter, deputy director and curator of exhibits for the university.
"When they give a gift like this to a small museum, they know that we're going to be researching it," she said.
Green is looking forward to discovering the intimate details of Warhol's life and being able to enter his world, she said.
"We have a lot of really important photographs in it, not just random ones"
Green said, citing photos with subjects including Mick Jagger, artists who worked with Warhol, one of his boyfriends and his house.
"There are a lot of thrilling connections to us as students, to the Richmond area and to major principles of Warhol's ideas," Green said.
During the summer, she researched the people in his photos, cataloged each photo and put them in an online database to send to the foundation. This was a requirement for each university and college that received a gift, she said.
"Now I'm looking into how I want to group them in relation to each other, but also in relation to fundamentals of Warhol, which moves into 'How do I want to question the viewer based on that?'" she said.
She will use techniques including exhibition design, grouping and writing captions, she said.
Green will be planning the exhibit closely with Richard Waller, executive director of university museums, and Schlatter, she said.
The Richmond museum staff worked with the Andy Warhol Foundation in 2005, when a Warhol exhibit was displayed at the Lora Robins Gallery of Design From Nature. The piece was titled, "Silent Spring: Andy Warhol's 'Endangered Species' and 'Vanishing Animals."' Additionally, a member from the foundation visited the university's museums after a grant application was submitted.
Richmond and the foundation therefore already had an established relationship, which is probably why Richmond was chosen to receive the gift of photos, Schlatter said.
Green was one of three or four students invited to work with Waller and Schlatter, Schlatter said.
"We were hoping that a student would come along and take this as a thesis topic, because it's a great scenario for them, especially if this person wants to go into museum work," she said.
Richmond alumna Olivia Kohler co-curated an exhibit with Schlatter in 2003, and is now the assistant curator at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery at George Washington University. Curating an exhibit was one of the best experiences she had at Richmond, Kohler said.
"It really gave me a good overall picture of what a curator would do." Green chose Warhol because the photos provided her the opportunity to curate an exhibit that is directly related to her thesis. But Warhol wasn't an immediate choice for her, because she loves artwork from the High Renaissance, she said. Nevertheless, she knew she had a thesis coming up and she wanted to pursue museum work, which pushed her to make the decision, she said.
The exhibit and her senior thesis will be related, but separate, since their purposes are very different, Green said. An exhibit presents things to the viewer in a way that encourages questioning, engagement and the viewer's own conclusions, but a thesis must state her own opinions and conclusions, she said.
"The difference is in me targeting my decision-making abilities or beliefs to then incite yours, rather than just me presenting mine.
"So my thesis will really enrich and engage and be the basis of a lot of the structure of the exhibition and connections I present in it, but they have to be pretty independent."
There are usually one or two students who curate an exhibit each semester, but it's not that common for someone to have her thesis related to an exhibition she is curating, Schlatter said.
"It's not common that this works out so well."
Green is hoping to collaborate and participate in social networking with students at other schools that received photos, such as George Washington University, the University of Virginia and the University of Maryland.
The diversity of the gift is what she is most excited about, because it shows so many facets of Warhol's world, she said.
"I'm excited to shake up people's assumptions about Warhol."
Contact reporter Taylor Engelson at firstname.lastname@example.org