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The Warhol’s upcoming exhibition, Andy Warhol’s Time Capsules, will give visitors a unique glimpse at the artist and his life.

October 3, 2004-January 2, 2005













Right: Time Capsule 21












Right: Clark Gable’s handmade spectator shoes.

















Right: Andy Warhol’s Time Capsules was listed as one of the best exhibitions of 2003 by ArtForum magazine.

































Right: Partial contents from Time Capsule 31.


































Right: Partial contents from Time Capsule 21.






Save the Date:
Andy Warhol’s Time Capsules will open with a preview party on Saturday, October 2, in conjunction with the Mattress Factory’s newest exhibition of work by Cuban artists. At The Warhol, Assistant Museum Archivist Matt Wrbican will open a new Time Capsule for the first time ever! Click here to Sign up at the Member Center to make sure you get all the party details.

Out of the BOX

Visitors enjoyed a look at the contents of 15 of Warhol’s Time Capsules when the exhibition first appeared at the Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt, Germany.

Andy Warhol’s packrat tendencies have been well-documented, as visitors to The Andy Warhol Museum’s 2002 Possession Obsession exhibition will recall. But it takes a look inside his collection of cardboard-box Time Capsules to get a true sense of Warhol’s apparently uncontrollable urge to save stuff.

Like a squirrel storing away acorns, he stashed endless bits of ephemera—as well as items of great import—in box after box. When each one was filled, it was sealed, dated, and stored, and replaced by another empty box so the process could start again. He started the practice in 1973, though the cartons harbor objects that date back long before then.

Warhol left behind 612 of these archaeological diaries, and The Warhol’s archivists have managed to burrow through and catalog just over 100 of them. On October 3, the contents of about 15 of those boxes—some 3,000 items—will go on display in an exhibition simply titled, Andy Warhol’s Time Capsules.

Unlike the not-really-random flea market finds that crowded his New York brownstone to nearly bursting, Warhol didn’t seem to care what landed in those boxes. He saved it all, regardless of its perceived relevance. Assistant Museum Archivist Matt Wrbican has unearthed everything from movie ticket stubs and unpaid bills to pizza dough and a pair of Clark Gable’s shoes, not to mention many pieces of Warhol’s earlier art. Finds include sketches of shoes and a mummified foot; party invitations and a piece of Caroline Kennedy’s birthday cake; unpaid bills and receipts from important art buys.

Whether he knew that some day these boxes would hold invaluable keys to his life and times is debatable. Archivists believe Warhol eventually decided that would be the case—at least, he regarded them as semi-illuminating pieces of pop art made valuable because of who created them. But they also agree that his original motivation was more mundane: A child of the Depression, he simply couldn’t throw anything out. So the boxes became his garbage cans, where he could reflect the debris of pop culture back on itself and erase the lines between what constituted art and what fell into the realm of that “disposable” culture at the same time.

“Over time, Warhol had to be aware that he was creating something that was going to be of tremendous interest at some point in the future,” says John Smith, The Warhol’s assistant director for collections and research. “Warhol was an incredibly savvy artist and businessman.”

Wrbican says evidence of that attitude can be found in items such as the 10 eight-track tapes he put into one box. “Warhol probably picked them up at a flea market,” Wrbican says, “thinking they were artifacts that document our culture.” Support for that theory lies in the fact that they were found in a 1985 box, and eight-tracks had become dinosaurs long before that.

Warhol actually considered selling some Time Capsules, but hadn’t quite figured out how to market them. According to the exhibition companion book, Andy Warhol’s Time Capsule 21, he had resolved to increase their sale price from his original $100 to $4,000 or $5,000—that is, if he ever got around to deciding he could part with them.

It’s About Time

It’s no accident that The Andy Warhol Museum is showcasing these Time Capsules now. It is, after all, the 10th anniversary of its opening, and capsules are routinely opened by their custodians on such special occasions. But the contents of these 15 boxes were first displayed late last year at the Museum fur Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt, Germany.

ArtForum Contributing Editor Daniel Birnbaum listed Frankfurt’s presentation of Andy Warhol’s Time Capsules as one of his favorite exhibitions of 2003, stating, “I couldn’t stop pouring over all the letters and postcards and stuff Warhol collected. For an artist who likened his mind to a tape recorder equipped only with an erase button, this is a strangely Proustian project.”

“The scale of this show is so immense,” Smith explains. “Each box has 200 to 300 single objects in it. Multiply that by 15 and you realize how many different single pieces you’re talking about. It would have been difficult for us to take on a project like that on our own. By collaborating on this exhibition with the Museum fur Moderne Kunst in Germany, we were able to do things we might not have been able to do with our limited resources.”

And these are just a fraction of the first 100 Time Capsules. The Warhol could hold a similar exhibition each year for the next 10 years and still cover only another 150 boxes. Wrbican says opening and cataloging each new box is a mind-boggling experience. Every item has to be examined, and if its nature is not immediately evident, archivists must try to decipher what that item is—and what it could represent. What might look like a seemingly innocuous receipt could speak volumes about Warhol’s world, and perhaps even solve lingering mysteries.

For instance, there’s the May 8, 1961, sales statement from the Leo Castelli Gallery for a Jasper Johns drawing Warhol purchased three years before he began exhibiting his own work there. Warhol and Castelli went into the gallery’s back room to see what else was available, and Warhol spotted Roy Lichtenstein’s then-controversial comic strip paintings. Warhol mentioned he was creating similar work. A man at the gallery, Ivan Karp, expressed interest and was invited to Warhol’s studio, where he viewed Warhol’s depictions of Nancy, Superman, Popeye, and other famous cartoon characters.

The reason the statement is important, Wrbican explains, is because it set the previously nebulous time frame for Warhol’s interaction with Castelli, Karp, and others who became important figures in his life. It also established a connection between that event and the point at which his art was undergoing major changes, metamorphosing from an emphasis on cutesy angels, kittens, and butterflies to more daring—and less readily accepted—subjects.

“He knew that he wouldn’t become as well-known, as famous, and, frankly, as wealthy if he continued doing the same work that he was doing,” Wrbican says. So Warhol again transformed himself, as he had earlier when he changed his name and left Pittsburgh.

In another Time Capsule, archivists located a statement from December 1961 indicating Warhol still owed money on the $350 purchase.

Ironies and Oddities
A Capsule full of circa-1956 items held a rejection notice by the Museum of Modern Art in New York City for Warhol’s attempted gift of a shoe drawing. It makes one wonder what kind of shoe they used to kick themselves with later on.

In fact, it was Warhol’s shoe fetish that led to his acquisition of Clark Gable’s handmade spectator shoes, a gift from the actor’s widow. She saw a gossip column item—which Warhol apparently planted—mentioning he was collecting celebrities’ shoes. So she packed off a pair of her late husband’s two-tones.
Other finds have less logical explanations—or none at all. Even the archivists’ detective work can’t always produce one, so they’re forced to speculate why, for example, one box housed crumbling bits of pizza dough.

Says Wrbican: “I don’t know if this thing with the pizza dough is actually a work of art, or if Warhol may have just been trying to somehow document in a really literal way, rather than with photographs—the process of making pizza dough.”

Some of it looked like a ball, and some pieces appeared to be flat, which led Wrbican to theorize that Warhol may have been attempting to show the actual steps of working the dough. It’s possible he was feeling the influence of several fellow artists who were then working with food as their medium. There’s also the unstated possibility that it was another of Warhol’s little gags, the joke being that it meant nothing significant at all.

The insect-infested dough has long since been disposed of, and Wrbican wishes he could figure out how to create an exhibition version in a safer medium. That probably won’t happen, but he and the exhibition’s German designers came up with some clever ways to display other artifacts, such as the elegant silver, coffee cup, menu cards, and other items the souvenir-loving artist lifted during a flight on the transatlantic Concorde found in Time Capsule 214. In a play on the plane itself, the case holding these pieces is built on an incline, with tall legs on one end and short ones on the other.

“I installed the objects at almost precisely the exact same angle so they all looked like they were sort of taking off, flying out of the room,” Wrbican explains. “People really loved that at the exhibition in Germany.”

Contents and Context
The sleek, brushed aluminum cases designed for the German exhibition will be used here in Pittsburgh to display most of the same contents they originally held. The primary difference between the exhibitions, according to Wrbican, is the context in which the Time Capsules’ contents will be seen. In Frankfurt, they were integrated with that museum’s multi-artist modern art collection, which put them in a broader historical perspective. Sometimes they were grouped with themes. For example, Gable’s shoes, an autographed Shirley Temple picture Warhol obtained as a youth, and a silk panne dress believed to have been worn by Jean Harlow all were given a Hollywood label. The other contents of the boxes from which they came had little to do with Tinseltown, but Wrbican says the designation “gives the public something to grab onto.”

In Pittsburgh, the displays will be surrounded by Warhol’s own work and will offer deeper insights into his personal life and the chronology of his career. The boxes were carefully selected to convey both the momentous and mundane.

One of Wrbican’s favorites is Time Capsule 67, which had a particularly rich yield of artifacts. In addition to the Harlow dress and a Christmas card from Paul McCartney, it contained five maids’ costumes from Milan. No one has figured out why Warhol acquired them, though Wrbican surmises they were created by some well-known designer, perhaps Versace.

Wrbican was particularly amused by one item in the box: Yves St. Laurent’s Christmas gift to Warhol of an oversized Campbell’s soup can containing a candle and embellished with Laurent’s autograph. Also good for a laugh is the High Times magazine cover of Warhol and pal Truman Capote posing with a dachshund. Warhol is dressed as Santa; Capote appears as Mao.

The Pittsburgh exhibition may include a box or two more than the Frankfurt show because Wrbican wants to work in more ‘80s artifacts. And he’s still trying to figure out how to re-create a highlight of the German exhibition: a series of items belonging to Warhol’s mother, Julia Warhola, presented as an actual room with a closet, a bed, and an end table. The closet held her clothes, the table was loaded with greeting cards from her grandchildren, and the bed featured a “quilt” patterned from 20 or so praying-hands Christmas cards Warhol had designed, interspersed with pieces showcasing Julia’s fanciful writing. In Germany, the room appeared in the museum entrance because it represented Andy’s own beginning. Because it won’t fit in The Warhol’s entryway, it probably will wind up on the fourth floor.

Though the exhibition seemingly is all about time, it was never intended to be linear—any more so, that is, than the crazy-quilt thought process of the Time Capsules’ fascinatingly eccentric creator.

Following its close in Pittsburgh, Andy Warhol’s Time Capsules wil travel to the Natinal Gallery in Melbourne, Australia, where it will be on view March 15 through May 8, 2005.

Andy Warhol’s Time Capsule 21
The exhibition, Andy Warhol’s Time Capsules, is accompanied by the catalogue, Andy Warhol’s Time Capsule 21, designed locally by Kendra Power Design and Communication, Inc., and published by Dumont. The book provides an illustrated, in-depth look at the individual objects and ephemera found in Time Capsule 21. With its photobooth strips of Warhol Superstars, six self-portraits, revealing business records, and plentitude of artwork from the 1950s and 60s, Time Capsule 21 stands out as one of the richest resources of Warhol’s oeuvre. Also included in the book are essays by The Warhol’s Director, Thomas Sokolowski, and the curatorial staff at both the Museum für Moderne Kunst,

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