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Hidden Treasures: Warhol's Ongoing Work of Art

When Andy Warhol died in 1987, he left behind miles of film, video and audiotapes, and thousands of paintings, photographs and works on paper. John Smith of the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh says much of it was what most people would call trash.

As Harriet Baskas reports for Hidden Treasures, an occasional series on All Things Considered, Warhol's legacy includes hundreds of sealed and dated storage boxes, time capsules for the future. Since 1994, the Warhol Museum has a made a regular event of opening what Warhol termed his ongoing work of art.

The content found inside ranges from the questionable -- leftover birthday cake from Caroline Kennedy's 16th birthday party -- to the sublime, including the black-and-white film acetates Warhol used in his portrait of movie star Dennis Hopper.

Ingrid Schaffner of the University of Pennsylvania's Institute of Contemporary Art says these boxes tell you more about Warhol the person than about his art.

"His great statement is, 'If you want to know about Andy Warhol, just look at surfaces of my painting and films. There's nothing there,' Schaffner says. "To make a statement like that and then see, in fact, there's everything there with the work of the time capsules. The vacuum is full of stuff."

This story is part of the Hidden Treasures Radio Project, funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Cultural Development Authority of King County, Wash.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.