PITTSBURGH — A group of Carnegie Mellon University students and alumni has recovered digital images apparently created and stored by Andy Warhol on floppy computer disks nearly 30 years ago.
The 28 images that were found on the disks include an altered Botticelli’s “Venus,” a Warhol self-portrait, and a Campbell’s soup can.
They were created on Warhol’s Commodore Amiga computer in 1985 and included versions of some of his other most iconic images such as a banana and Marilyn Monroe, neither of which have been released yet, and may never be.
While the historic value will take more research and debate to be figured out, Matt Wrbican, the Andy Warhol Museum’s chief archivist, said the art world’s interest is understandable for one of the world’s most prolific and studied artists.
“It’s something that’s new,” he said, “and that doesn’t happen very often with Warhol.”
And, like the discovery of a missing, old world masterpiece, within hours of the Warhol discovery hitting the Internet and going around the world, Wrbican heard from someone who does not believe that Warhol himself created the images.
A man who worked with the now-defunct Amiga World magazine — which did a story in January 1986 about Warhol and his use of the Amiga computer — called after reading a story about the discovery Thursday and said he “doesn’t think Warhol actually made a lot of those images,” Wrbican said.
Wrbican said he will talk more with the person who called — he could not recall his name — and “we’ll discuss it with him.”
But if the images were not solely created by Warhol — who died in 1987 — on the computer, it would not necessarily affect their historic value in helping to further understand him.
“Like a lot of his work, it was a collaboration,” he said.
Still, he said, even if Warhol had created the images all by himself, he noted: “I want to emphasize we’re not calling these art work. It was just Warhol learning a new tool.”
The museum knew it had Warhol’s Amiga computer and floppy disks for some time, Wrbican said, and accessing it “was something I’d wanted to do for awhile, but there are only so many hours in a day.”
Wrbican said that even if Warhol did create the images, it’s would not be easy to publish them for commercial sale.
With the Marilyn Monroe image, for example, “we might not want to even release it because the people who control Monroe’s image are very vigilant” and might sue the museum if it did.
And similar copyright issues plague much of his work because of the way he used publicly available images or products.
Moreover, Wriban said: “We don’t really see them as Warhol’s artwork, so I don’t think we’re going to be putting them out there on coffee cups to sell any time soon.”