Revelations in the Time Capsules

In this image, I am flipping through the only Jewish book in Andy Warhol’s Time Capsules (TC). To my right is TC (-1.4); the box where I uncovered this 67-year-old leather-bound text.

 

Revelations in the Time Capsules

Museum Studies Intern at the Andy Warhol Museum – Fall 2018

This past semester, I had the opportunity to be a curatorial intern for José Carlos Díaz, the chief curator of the Andy Warhol Museum. Given my academic concentration on the intersection of art and religion, my job was to aid José in his preparation of Andy Warhol: Revelation (October 2019), an exhibition focusing on the Pop artist’s religious side. Contrary to many popular perceptions of Andy Warhol, he held very traditional Catholic beliefs, and his faith manifested itself throughout his art. My research for the exhibition led me through numerous scholarly texts and Warhol’s biographic accounts, but the most compelling source was undoubtedly the Time Capsules

Starting in 1974 and ending at the artist’s death in 1987, Warhol compiled 610 Time Capsules by placing a mélange of items (from correspondence to food) into cardboard boxes and saving them in storage to be opened on a future date. Time Capsules is considered to be the world’s most expansive readymade artwork and all of its boxes have all ready been opened, stabilized, and cataloged in the Andy Warhol Museum’s Archives Study Center. I focused on Andy’s religious ephemera, evidence of his church attendance, and correspondence with his nephew Pauly Warhola – who received his uncle’s financial support for seminary. 

Despite numerous dead ends and red herrings, I uncovered some important information that may be featured in the exhibition. Based on Andy’s daily diary entries, he said that he “went to church” sixty-one times over the roughly five hundred recorded weeks from November 1976 to February 1987. However, I found Mass programs in the Time Capsules from dates when Warhol omitted church attendance in his diary, which suggests that he was going to church more than he was willing to admit. By closely reading correspondence sent from Pauly Warhola to his grandmother Julia and uncle Andy, I also discovered key instances where Andy provided funds to support his nephew’s studies for the priesthood. 

Andy was a notorious collector, especially of religious objects. Throughout the archives, one can examine Christian objects from kitschy collectibles to the Warhola family bible. There is even a Qur’an that Warhol picked up during his travels. Yet throughout Warhol’s entire collection, there were no traces of Judaica until I uncovered a Hebrew Bible in pictures (a Jewish book containing biblical stories with corresponding images) buried amidst the miscellany of Time Capsule (-1.4). This picture Bible, published in 1951 in Tel Aviv, Israel, was originally cataloged with the notation that it was a Christian object, but the miniature book does not include the New Testament. 

After spending time in the Archives Study Center, I came to understand the intimate perspective that the material record can shed on the life of Andy Warhol. Despite the museum establishment over twenty-four years ago, there is still new information waiting to be uncovered about the secret side of the “Pope of Pop.”

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