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Lost Warhol Artwork Recovered from Floppy Disks

Getty Images / Hulton Archive / Susan Greenwood / Liaison Agency

Lost Warhol Artwork Recovered from Floppy Disks

In 1985, Andy Warhol was commissioned by the Commodore International computer company to create works of digital art with the new, state-of-the-art Amiga home computer. Warhol, always one to embrace new developments in culture and technology, turned his considerable talent to the newfangled machine and turned out several works ranging from a gorgeous portrait of Debbie Harry to doodles of bananas and Campbell's soup cans. According to the Andy Warhol Museum, these digital creations were dutifully saved to floppy disk for posterity, easily readable by Commodore's computers. Unfortunately, the Amiga proved unsuccessful and was rendered obsolete, leaving Warhol's files digitally stranded on those disks, unable to be read by modern machines.

Fortunately, members of the Carnegie Mellon University Computer Club love a challenge, and set about recovering the files from their resting place. What they revealed gave a tantalizing glimpse of what Warhol was capable of creating with the new digital technology, and hinted at what he could have accomplished with those tools as they evolved rapidly after his death.

Venus, 1985
Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987)
Digital image, from disk 1998.3.2129.3.22
The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh;
Founding Collection, Contribution The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.
© 2014 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

More importantly, perhaps, this episode in the history of art and technology raises questions about how to preserve art in the digital age. How do we stay ahead of the curve of scientific advancement and keep our cultural achievements accessible for future generations? What constitutes an original piece of artwork when it exists only as a string of data?

In addition, we are reminded that as our own personal history becomes increasingly digitized, we run the risk becoming inaccessible to our own descendants once Facebook, Twitter and Gmail eventually become as obsolete as an old Amiga.

Andy2, 1985
Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987)
Digital image, from disk 1998.3.2129.3.4
The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh;
Founding Collection, Contribution The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.
© 2014 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York