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Arts, Sports & Culture

Freed From Floppy Disks, New Warhol Art Is Discovered

The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts

A cache of works by Andy Warhol has been unlocked from its digital jail and is about to seen by a wider audience for the first time. 

Credit The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts
Andy2, 1985. A self-portrait the artist made on an Amiga 1000 computer.

A multi-national team of computer scientists, art experts and museum employees “unlocked” the images from floppy disks created by technology that was cutting edge in 1980s but has long since gone defunct. 

Warhol’s works include a re-imagination of his iconic Campbell's Soup Cans and a self-portrait. The images were made on an Amiga 1000 computer, which was sold by the company that created the well-known Commodore 64. The artist was asked to use the device as part of promotional campaign. 

The only image to be previously freed from the digital prison was a drawing of Debbie Harry.

There were no printers at the time that could reproduce the files “so what he did is he actually hired a photographer to photograph the work on screen and eventually a print was made from that,” Kukielski said.

The floppies were stored in Warhol’ s voluminous archives.

The search for the disks and the effort to extract the data was launched after digital and new media artist Cory Arcangel saw a YouTube clip showing Warhol promoting the computer.

To help unlock the images, Arcangel and CMOA curator Tina Kukielski turned to the CMU Computer Club.  The student-run organization is known for it collection of historic devices. 

“(They) were able to reverse engineer the files on the disks so that we could convert them into a contemporary format,” which allowed them to be viewed for the first time since Warhol unplugged his Amiga computer.

The 23 images have been archived on more modern formats for easier retrieval in the future. 

“It is possible that the Warhol does not have all the floppies," Kukielski said. "It is possible that some of the wound up back with the Commodore Corporation."

The entire process was documented for the Hillman Photography Initiative’s new short film, “Trapped: Andy Warhol’s Amiga Experiments.” The film will premiere May 10 at the Carnegie Lecture Hall.