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Warhol in Wyoming

January 4, 2018
Sylvester Stallone

The UW Art Museum opens a new exhibition featuring gifts from the Andy Warhol Photographic Legacy Program.

By Nicole M. Crawford

The Andy Warhol Photographic Legacy Program launched in 2007 in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the creation of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. This extraordinary program donated more than 28,500 photographs by Andy Warhol (American, 1928–87) to educational institutions across the United States. More than 180 college and university museums, galleries and art collections throughout the nation participated in the program, each receiving a curated selection of original Polaroid photographs and gelatin silver prints. In 2008, the University of Wyoming Art Museum received 150 such prints taken by Warhol over the course of his career. In 2014, the foundation gifted an additional five screenprints to the museum.

The portraits, celebrity snapshots, nudes, party photos, still lifes and city scenes that make up the selection demonstrate Warhol’s aesthetic interests and the reach of his curiosity as an artist. The Polaroid portraits reveal his intense and candid engagement with the sitter in front of his camera, whether it was a celebrity, a tycoon or a socialite. Warhol used Polaroids as the basis for commissioned portraits that were later created as silkscreen paintings, drawings and prints. The gelatin silver prints, on the other hand, highlight his extraordinary compositional skills, his eye for detail and his compulsive desire to document the time in which he lived and in-the-moment imagery more in the style of paparazzi.

The goal of the Photographic Legacy Program is to provide even greater access to Warhol’s work and process and to enable a wide range of individuals from communities and institutions across the country to view and study this important aspect of his body of work. Through this democratic approach to distribution, the program offered institutions that did not have the means to acquire works by Warhol the opportunity to bring a significant number of photographs into their permanent collections. Only one substantial serigraphic print by Warhol, The Electric Chair, was in the UW Art Museum’s collection before the gift, and so the program has enriched the breadth and depth of UW Art Museum’s permanent collection. 

Institutions identified to receive gifts were only required to demonstrate that they could exhibit the work and care for it properly. Therefore, on the 10th anniversary of the initial donation, the UW Art Museum presents Warhol in Wyoming: The Andy Warhol Photographic Legacy Gift that highlights the curated collection of Polaroids, gelatin silver prints and additional screenprints selected for Wyoming. The exhibition is open Jan. 27 – May 26, 2018. Previously, selected Polaroids and gelatin silver prints were exhibited alongside borrowed silkscreens for the exhibition Iconic Mass Culture: Andy Warhol’s Portraits, in 2010, and an assortment of the works is on display at varying times in the Pat Guthrie Teaching Gallery for use in courses at UW. However, the current exhibition is the first to feature the entire Andy Warhol Photographic Legacy Gift to the UW Art Museum.

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