Andy Warhol’s archive of around 500 films, many of which have never been seen by the public, are to be digitised in a major new project undertaken by the Andy Warhol Museum with New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).
The project will allow the hundreds of films made by Warhol between 1963 and 1972 to be screened after the artist withdrew them from circulation over 40 years ago, but MoMA has warned the process will take years to complete as the process is so delicate.
Starting from this month, experts will be digitally scanning nearly 1,000 rolls of original 16mm film, frame by frame, and converted into high resolution images.
The collaboration marks the largest effort to digitize the work of a single artist in MoMA’s collection, the works of which include Warhol’s silent screen tests, the portraits he took of muses such as Nico and Edie Sedgwick at The Factory, and his close and many films that are little known even to scholars due to the fragility of the film.
This period of Warhol’s films saw the creation of some of his better known productions, such as the hours-long footage of a single object, recording very little movement or change, as with Sleep and Empire, while the three-and-a-half hour long Chelsea Girls from 1966 was Warhol’s first major success, in a commercial sense.
Warhol first acquired a motion picture camera in 1963, a 16mm Bolex, his thousands of reels that he made over following years could re-paint the artist as being just as significant for his films as for his screen-prints and sculptures.
Deputy director of the Warhol Museum and a curator of the digitization project, told the New York Times that his aim was to fully integrate Warhol’s films into his career as a whole.
“I think the art world in particular, and hopefully the culture as a whole, will come to feel the way we do, which is that the films are every bit as significant and revolutionary as Warhol’s paintings,” he said.