Art students will soon be able to make use of a unique donation to the department – a time capsule of 21st century pop culture.
On Friday the Nelson Gallery, the art department’s faculty-run teaching museum, opened a donation of original photographs from the Andy Warhol Foundation valued at $188,000. The package was opened Friday in the small space of room 125 in the art building, with an anxious audience huddled around.
About a year ago, the Nelson Gallery Registrar and Collection manager Robin Bernhard explained, Nelson Gallery director Renny Pritikin received a peculiar letter in the mail f
rom the foundation asking if UC Davis would like a portion of the $28 million donation of the American pop artist’s work that would be distributed to around 200 universities for academic use. Pritikin filled out a form and returned it to the foundation, and on Apr. 8 received a sealed package, which remained unopened until Friday so that it could acclimate to its new western atmosphere.
Very carefully, Bernhard sliced the edges of the package in white gloves and using a box cutter, only to find another sealed package within it.
A voice from the back of the small crowd shouted to her, “Normally you don’t have all these people around watching you, are you nervous?”
Bernhard answered with a laugh, “[It’s] not too bad. A hand shaking is not too good with a knife.”
Under plastic and tape was a matte cardboard 3-ring binder filled with photographs in Mylar sleeves. The format of the donation was both the older 4×5 format of Polaroid prints in color as well as 11×14 silver gelatin prints in black and white.
As Bernhard gently flipped through the sleeves, the news media and Nelson faculty alike stood in silence and wonder. Both posed and candid photographs of subjects like Debbie Harry, nude models and unidentified miscellaneous portraits were among the donated collection.
“[Andy Warhol] was an obsessive diarist,” Pritikin said. “He used the camera as a diary as well.”
The highlight for the majority of spectators, however, was the donation of several black and white photographs of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver’s wedding. In this miniseries was a close up candid portrait of Shriver coyly licking wedding cake from her fingers.
Over the next month, Bernhard said, the photographs will be scanned, archived and sent back to the foundation. This was one of many conditions outlined for the acceptance of the gift, according to a letter the foundation sent to Pritikin.
The Nelson Gallery plans to hold an official exhibit of Warhol’s work in the next year, but Bernhard said that in about a month’s time the photos will be made digitally available on the Nelson Gallery website, nelsongallery.ucdavis.edu under the “collection” section.
NICOLE L. BROWNER can be reached at email@example.com.