Dozens of never-before-seen Andy Warhol works have been discovered on floppy disks from 1985. A team of new-media artists, computer experts and museum professionals rescued the purely digital images from obscurity after the Carnegie Mellon University Computer Club extracted them from 30-year-old Amiga disks that were in the collection of Pittsburgh’s Andy Warhol Museum.
In the mid-Eighties, computer manufacturer Commodore International commissioned Warhol to demonstrate the artistic capabilities of the Amiga 1000 personal computer, making Warhol a pioneer in digital art. The images he made included several subjects associated with Warhol, including Campbell’s soup cans, Botticelli’s Venus and self-portraiture.
In a 1985 interview with AmigaWorld, an interviewer asked Warhol what he liked about making art on an Amiga – the first time Warhol had ever worked with a computer. “Well, I like it because it looks like my work,” he said. When asked what he would add to the Amiga, Warhol wanted a “pencil,” meaning a light pen. “You could get the lines easier,” he said.
Brooklyn artist Cory Arcangel inspired the search for the lost works after learning about their existence from a 1985 Commodore infomercial on YouTube. He first approached the Andy Warhol Museum in December 2011 and, over the next few years, worked with Carnegie Mellon in restoring files with names like “marilyn1.pic” and “campbells.pic.” It was a process that proved to be harder than they had anticipated since the files were stored in a unique file format.
After decoding the files, the team discovered 28 images that the Andy Warhol Museum said were in Warhol’s style. Eleven of the files bear the artist’s signature.
“What’s amazing is that by looking at these images, we can see how quickly Warhol seemed to intuit the essence of what it meant to express oneself, in what then was a brand-new medium: the digital,” Arcangel said in a statement.
A short documentary about the team’s work in recovering the Warhol images, Trapped, will premiere at the Carnegie Library Lecture Hall in Pittsburgh on May 10th. The screening will be followed by a discussion with Arcangel and others who worked on the project. The documentary will later be available online at NowSeeThis on May 12th.