Warhol's Rare 'Amiga' Artworks Created on 1980s-era Personal Computer Given New Life as Unique Collectible NFTs
“If I had a good computer I could catch up with my thoughts over the weekend if I ever got behind myself. A computer would be a very qualified boss.” (Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, 1975)
NEW YORK— Christie’s announces Andy Warhol: Machine Made, a ground-breaking sale of five digital works created by Andy Warhol in the mid-1980s and recovered from obsolete floppy disks in 2014. In a first for the nascent market for digital art and NFTs, these original works by the celebrated ‘Pope of Pop Art’ which previously existed only as digital files will be brought to life again in the form of 1/1 NFTs (non-fungible tokens). They will be offered for sale individually by Christie’s on behalf of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, with all sale proceeds to benefit the non-profit philanthropic foundation established by Warhol.
Christie’s will accept payment for the entire purchase price in Ether or USD, and the starting bid for each work will be $10,000 USD. The online-only sale will be open for bidding at 10am EDT on May 19 and run to May 27 on Christie’s website.
Created in a paint program on Warhol’s Commodore Amiga personal computer in the mid-1980s, the group of five works includes two self-portraits, his signature flower and Campbell’s soup can motifs and a rendering of a single banana on a blue background. Each of the digital drawings will be minted as NFTs in advance of the sale conclusion and transferred to the new owner’s digital wallet upon completion of the sale.
The story of the survival of Warhol’s so-called ‘Amiga’ works captivated the art market when their rediscovery was announced in 2014. Overlooked for nearly three decades, the digital works were archived until artist Cory Arcangel organized a recovery project in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University, Carnegie Museum of Art and The Andy Warhol Museum. Over the course of three years, the initiative was successful in extracting the files and restoring Warhol’s innovative art experiments for the world to experience. In 2019, The Andy Warhol Museum produced a video that details the complicated and impressive process.
After the landmark success of Christie’s sale of Beeple’s “EVERYDAYS: The First 5000 Days” earlier this year, The Andy Warhol Foundation identified the early digital works as ideal candidates for the emerging medium of NFT art.
“Warhol’s experimental digital works of art are yet another striking example of how the prophetic 20th century genius continues to provide a blueprint for the 21st century,” said Michael Dayton Hermann of The Andy Warhol Foundation. “The sale of these original works from a watershed moment in the history of digital art will generously provide funds to support the philanthropic organization established by Warhol in furtherance of the Foundation’s mission to advance the visual arts. Having distributed nearly $250 million in cash grants since its inception in 1987, the Foundation’s commitment to artists and innovative art making is unwavering.”
Noah Davis, Specialist, Post-War & Contemporary Art at Christie’s added: “For our clients, this is a moment and an opportunity that truly brings together two previously distinct collecting communities – the traditional and the digital – in a shared celebration of Andy Warhol. As the great visionary of the 20th century who predicted so many universal truths about art, fame, commerce, and technology, Warhol is the ideal artist and NFTs are the ideal medium to re-introduce his pioneering digital artworks through this special dedicated sale at Christie’s.”
Allison Immergut, Junior Specialist, Post-War & Contemporary Art at Christie’s, said, “Christie’s is honored to continue our long-standing partnership with The Andy Warhol Foundation and to bring these five digital drawings to market for the first time since their creation in the mid-1980s. With the sale of ‘Machine Made,’ Warhol’s forward-thinking nature has never been more apparent, and it demonstrates a perfect synthesis of fine art and digital art.”
About the ‘Amiga’ works
In 1985, Warhol accepted an invitation from Commodore International, an electronics manufacturer credited with playing an important part in the development of the home computer industry, to act as a brand ambassador. As a result, Warhol was gifted an Amiga 1000 personal computer equipped with the latest software, ProPaint.
Commodore’s new product was launched at a theatrical event featuring Warhol onstage at Lincoln Center in New York City with Debbie Harry, the famed lead singer of the band Blondie. In front of a live audience, Warhol created a portrait of Harry on an Amiga. Video of the event is available for viewing here.
Warhol engaged and embraced technology as part of his practice, and following the premiere performance with Harry, he made a series of digital drawings during the summer of 1985, including the iconic Campbell’s soup can, colorful flowers, and portraits. Several of the works in Machine Made were previously shown at The Andy Warhol Museum in a special exhibition Warhol and the Amiga from July 2017 to November 2019.
Over the last year, The Andy Warhol Foundation has developed flexible and responsive policies to its regular granting program in response to the financial hardships and the increased responsibilities the cultural sector is taking on. Additionally, it mobilized its newly expanded Regional Regranting network to provide emergency funds to artists in the program’s 32 cities and regions across the country, as well as contributing to two national initiatives to support artists affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. These efforts represent a $2.6 million commitment on the part of the Foundation as part of its annual grantmaking budget of approximately $15 million. Proceeds from this sale, after any appropriate offsets for carbon emissions associated with the minting process, will support the Foundation’s grantmaking initiatives inclusive of its substantial annual funding of The Andy Warhol Museum and its ongoing efforts to support artists throughout the country.
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