Andy Warhol is coming to the University of Houston. Well, his photographs are. On Sept. 13, the exhibit Celebutants, Groupies, and Friends: A Photographic Legacy from the Andy Warhol Foundation will open at the Blaffer Gallery. A selection of 150 photographs gifted to the University will be on display, offering an invaluable look into Warhol’s private life as well as his artistic process.
Warhol began his career as an artist by doing illustrations for fashion magazines. Although both a photographer and painter, Warhol’s painted work is far better known.
"(Warhol took) 66,000 photos in (his) lifetime, and a lot of them he used for his silk screens and paintings," said Jeffrey Bowen, assistant director of External Affairs at the Blaffer Gallery.
Most would recognize Warhol from his famous paintings of Marilyn Monroe, originally taken from photographs of the actress. Warhol also sculpted, and the local Menil Collection houses some of his work in various media.
"(Warhol was) probably one of the most important artists of the 21st century, and he was probably the biggest artist of the pop culture movement," said Mike Guidry, curator of campus collections. Not afraid to make his art into a business, "he kind of took the stigma out of making money from art" Guidry said. He even called his studio "the Factory."
Celebrities sought him out for portraits and Warhol "embraced the celebrities; followed them" and became one of the celebrities himself, Bowen said.
"Warhol had huge implications on the rock stars and celebrities of the time," he said. Billy Squier, a rock star, sought out Warhol to do the cover of his album. Other celebrities featured in his art include Jackie Kennedy, Liz Taylor and Princess Diana.
The Blaffer Gallery will exhibit Squier’s portrait, along with those of other celebrities who commissioned portraits, such as Princess Caroline of Monaco and Pia Zadora, an actress and singer. The exhibit also features a UH connection with the display of photographs of artist Julian Schnabel, a UH alum. Schnabel received his degree in 1973 from the University and even had an exhibit at the Blaffer Gallery. Also on display will be black and white 8×10 prints of Warhol’s everyday life.
"The polaroids are more like commissioned photographs of his sitters," Bowen said. The 8×10′s are "important because you really get an idea of the celebrity scene of the ’70s and ’80′s," he said.
After his death in 1987, a foundation was set up to take care of the "business" of Andy Warhol. This foundation gifted many of the thousands of photographs to institutions around the country, the University of Houston being one of them. While a permanent collection at the University, the photographs of Andy Warhol cannot be on permanent display. "Polaroids are sensitive to light exposure," Bowen said, and it will be "up to curator Mike Guidry when they’ll next be exhibited."
Celebutants, Groupies, and Friends runs through Oct. 18, 2008. Admission to the gallery is free.