Lost Andy Warhol artworks recovered after spending 30 years on floppy disks

Images including doodles and photo-manipulations were made as part of a demonstration of the graphical ability of the Amiga 1000 computer in 1985

A dozen previously unknown digital artworks created by Andy Warhol have been discovered on a set of 30-year-old floppy disks.

The doodles and photo manipulations were created by Warhol in 1985 as part of commercial stunt by Commodore to promote the graphical prowess of the company’s new Amiga 1000 computer.

As well as reworking some of Warhol’s most famous themes, including images of a Campbell’s soup can and Marilyn Monroe, the artworks include a manipulated photo-portrait of Blonde’s Debbie Harry and three-eyed re-imagining of Boticcelli’s The Birth of Venus.

The rescue of the artworks came about after chance viewing of a YouTube clip by new media artist Cory Arcangel. The clip in question (see below) was recorded as part of the launch event for the Amiga 1000 and shows Warhol making the portrait of Harry.

After Archangel saw the video in 2011 he contacted Tina Kukielski, a curator at the Carnegie Museum of Art and the pair got asked the chief archivist of the Warhol Museum, Matt Wrbican, if they could search for the artworks amongst his files.

The trio discovered that the images had entered the museum’s archives in 1994 but had been inaccessible due to their obsolete format. In order to overcome this they got in contact with the Carnegie Mellon University Computer Club, a student organization known for its “comprehensive collection of obsolete computer hardware”.

A manipulation of a pre-rendered Botticelli. Credit: The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visuals Arts, Inc.  The Computer Club managed to reverse-engineer the ancient Amiga format and eventually retrieved 18 images of which 12 were signed by Warhol himself. Although there have been no official titles released for the artworks the filenames might offer the nearest equivalent, including the likes of “campbells”, “banana2”, “marilyn1” and “money”.

Wrbican hailed the find as a great addition to the archives of Warhol’s work, describing the images as showing “a mature artist who had spent about 50 years developing a specific hand-to-eye coordination now suddenly grappling with the bizarre new sensation of a mouse in his palm".

“No doubt he resisted the urge to physically touch the screen – it had to be enormously frustrating, but it also marked a huge transformation in our culture: the dawn of the era of affordable home computing. We can only wonder how he would explore and exploit the technologies that are so ubiquitous today."

The Amiga 1000 computer used to create the artworks. Credit: The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visuals Arts, Inc.

The discovery and recovery of the images has been filmed for a documentary entitled The Invisible Photograph which will be aired on 10 May at the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh.  Shortly afterwards it will be hosted online at http://www.nowseethis.org/.

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