MOMA To Digitize Thousands of Hours of Warhol Films

MOMA’s massive digitizing project will afford unprecedented access to the prolific artist’s films.

When I was about fourteen, I, like so many other restless young girls whose mothers wouldn't let them wear eye makeup, fell incontrovertibly in love with Edie Sedgwick. My preferred method of feeding my obsession was the engrossing George Plimpton oral history centered around the tragic young Warhol starlet, and I indulged hungrily. While I eventually outgrew my romantic preoccupation with raccoon eye makeup, the upper/downer lifestyle, and platinum blonde short cuts, many of the potent images borne of my infatuation have endured. 

One of those images concerned a Warhol film called Beauty #2. Everything I read about it had a kind of magic: her milky skin against sharp black lingerie, the ash-stained striped sheets, the very idea of a film about nothing. So the announcement last week that MoMA, in collaboration with The Andy Warhol Museum and visual FX company MPC, has begun scanning hundreds of Warhol films, including Beauty #2, stirred my teen dreams all over again. Although a number of Warhol's films have long circulated publicly, most of the prolific artist's massive output has remained under wraps, in MoMA's archives, due to concerns about degradation.

As Patrick Moore, the Warhol Museum's Deputy Director, told the New York Times, “A lot of people feel like they know Warhol’s films but only because they’ve read about them,” said Mr. Moore. “Fewer and fewer people have the ability to show 16 millimeter.” Although there is already grumbling about the digital reincarnation diminishing the integrity of the films, the sheer thrill of access wins out. 

The films will be shown as part of a live orchestral presentation titled, Exposed: Songs for Unseen Warhol Films, set to premiere in Philadelphia next month, before moving to UCLA, and then finally to BAM in New York.

MOMA To Digitize Thousands of Hours of Warhol Films