August 20, 2009

22 years after death, Warhol's junk lends insight

In this photo taken on Aug. 13, 2009, Matt Wrbican, left, the archivist overseeing the cataloguing of Andy Warhol's 610 cardboard boxes called "Time Capsules", discovers a Frank Lloyd Wright paper weight while opening a time capsule dated June 86, at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. In rear are cataloguers Liz Scott, center, and Marie Elia. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

From the Associated Press:
The archivists, hired with $600,000 from the Andy Warhol Foundation and several other smaller grants, have six years to comb through everything from taxi cab receipts to fan mail, meticulously cataloguing, photographing and, when possible, researching the often bizarre items before entering them into a database.

"He really didn't like organization and there would be several boxes going at a time," says Matt Wrbican, who is overseeing the cumbersome project.

Now the spouses of the 19 heads of states and representatives of the European Union coming to Pittsburgh in September for the Group of 20 global economic summit may also get a peek at the papers, stamps, photos, gifts and nicknacks that made up Warhol's life.

"I would like to give them a Warhol experience," says Thomas Sokolowski, director of The Andy Warhol Museum, who will host the spouses for lunch during the Sept. 24-25 summit.

The idea, he says, is to give them white smocks and gloves, just as the archivists wear, and a box to sift through.

The White House hasn't decided whether to go for it, he says, and if it does, any boxes would be vetted in advance to ensure nothing crops up that is offensive — such as porn — or truly disgusting — like the oozing, decades-old soup cans Warhol often dumped inside.

Warhol was never one to throw things away, Wrbican says. In fact, when he died in 1987 at 58, his four-story Manhattan townhouse was packed with stuff: shopping bags filled with antiques, clothes, books and other artifacts from his daily expeditions, boxes, piles of furniture and even a drawer of gems worth $1 million.
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