Stanford, CA–Photographs by Andy Warhol that have never before been displayed publicly are at the heart of the exhibition, Contact Warhol: Photography Without End, which draws on a trove of over 130,000 photographic exposures that the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University acquired from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts in 2014. The collection of 3,600 contact sheets and corresponding negatives represents the complete range of Warhol’s black-and-white photographic practice from 1976 until his unexpected death in1987.
The exhibition brings to life Warhol’s many interactions with the social and celebrity elite of his time with portraits of stars such as Michael Jackson, Liza Minnelli, and Dolly Parton; younger sensations in the art world such as Keith Haring and Jean Michel Basquiat; and political stars, including Nancy Reagan, Maria Shriver, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Contact Warhol, curated by Stanford Professors Richard Meyer and Peggy Phelan, traces Warhol’s photography from the most fundamental level of the contact sheet to the most fully developed silkscreen paintings. “This exhibition allows viewers to experience Warhol’s photography in a depth and detail never before possible,” Phelan said.
Opening concurrently with the exhibition will be the culmination of a two-and-a-half year digitization project directed by Cantor project archivist Amy DiPasquale, which will make the Cantor’s collection of Warhol’s photographic work available to the public. The remarkable archive of contact sheets will be available through a searchable online database that will be accessed through the Stanford University Libraries system, and the entire collection of negatives and contact sheets will be available on the Cantor website.
“We are incredibly grateful to The Andy Warhol Foundation for entrusting the Cantor Arts Center with this invaluable collection that we are now able to share publicly through this multi-dimensional exhibition and through our digitization efforts,” said Susan Dackerman, John & Jill Freidenrich Director of the Canter Arts Center. “The contact sheets in our collection, many of which are featured in this exhibition, will serve as an important resource for academics, researchers, and students of art for years to come.”
The exhibition features an interactive component with a touch screen and large monitor that enables visitors to select one or more contact sheets from an archive of several hundred. Viewers will be able to navigate through the contact sheets as they wish, zooming in on images of interest and creating virtual prints of single exposures on the monitor. “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,” Meyer said.
"This exhibition, coupled with the ambitious digitization project, will advance scholarship on Warhol and the visual arts while also ensuring future access to Warhol's prolific and important, but less studied, photography practice,” said Joel Wachs, president of The Andy Warhol Foundation. “The Cantor Arts Center, with its international community of students, academics, and visitors, is an ideal location to introduce this work to the public."
The show also documents Warhol’s fascination with the gay culture of the 1970s and ‘80s. In addition to photographs of drag queens and Fire Island parties, the exhibition includes several of the artist's rarely seen, sexually explicit images. Belying Warhol’s persona as asexual, the show presents multiple photographs of the artist’s boyfriend, Jon Gould, an executive at Paramount Studios who died as a result of AIDS in 1986.
The focus of the exhibition, Warhol’s photographic contact sheets, represents a visual analogue to the artist’s diaries, which were tape-recorded phone conversations. “Whether commenting on sex, money, physical appearance, or social standing, the artist sized up his friends and acquaintances, as well as himself, with merciless precision,” Meyer said. Each group of works in the show will be introduced by a Warhol quote printed high on the gallery wall. One phrase from the quote will be in bold print to provide a moniker for each grouping: “I love going out every night” or “Now it’s gay gay gay as far as the eye can see.”
The catalogue accompanying the exhibition is published by the Cantor in association with MIT Press. In addition to essays by the curators, the volume includes three other scholarly essays and 65 plates. The book also introduces a new category of image the curators refer to as “Warhol/Not Warhol.” As Phelan explained, “Selecting frames from the contact sheets that were not printed by Warhol during his life time, we are creating works that are at once new Warhols, because he took the photographs, and not Warhols, because he did not print them.”
This exhibition could not be more relevant, the curators noted, because Warhol’s daily photographic practice for the last eleven years of his life anticipates current daily photographic habits across social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, where the “Warhol effect” remains central to contemporary art, culture, and everyday life.
Richard Meyer is the Robert and Ruth Halperin Professor in Art History, where he teaches courses on twentieth-century American art, gender and sexuality studies, arts censorship, and the history of photography.
Peggy Phelan is the Ann O’Day Maples Professor in the Arts, professor of Theater & Performance Studies and English, as well as the Denning Family Director of the Stanford Arts Institute.
This exhibition and accompanying catalogue are organized by the Cantor Arts Center. We gratefully acknowledge support from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the Office of the President, Stanford University.
Please be advised that this exhibition includes some images that may not be appropriate for young viewers.
Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University
Founded when the university opened in 1891, the museum was expanded and renamed in 1999 for lead donors Iris and B. Gerald Cantor. The Cantor’s collection spans 5,000 years and more than 38,000 works of art, including the largest collection of sculptures by renowned master Auguste Rodin in an American museum. With 24 galleries, more than 15 special exhibitions each year, and free admission, the Cantor is one of the most visited university art museums in the country, attracting visitors from Stanford’s academic community, the San Francisco Bay Area, and from around the world.
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The Cantor Arts Center is open six days a week and admission is free. Hours: Wednesday–Monday, 11 AM–5 PM, and Thursday until 8 PM. The museum is closed on Tuesday. The Cantor is located on the Stanford campus, off Palm Drive at Museum Way. Parking is free after 4 PM weekdays and all day on weekends and major holidays. For more information: 650-723-4177, or visit museum.stanford.edu.