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opening andy warhol's time capsules

It’s all happening! Tonight, one of Andy Warhol’s storied Time Capsules will be opened at the recently renovated Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. From 1974 until his death, America’s most famous Pop artist filled cardboard boxes with the ephemera of daily life, from photographs to newspaper clippings to business cards. The time capsule project started when Andy had his assistants carry his stuff in boxes from the Factory location at 33 Union Square West to the new one on Broadway. All 610 of the mostly unopened boxes are on view at the Museum, which was recently rehung and renovated for its 20th anniversary. On the occasion of this major moment of art history, Warhol’s last studio assistant (and the special guest at the unveiling) Benjamin Liu shares his memories of the time capsules.

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"I spent two summers in the early 80s with the late American fashion designer Halston and his muse and my boss at the time, the Venezuelan artist Victor Hugo, in Montauk, Long Island.

The rented estate belonged to Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey, the director of Heat, Flesh, Bad etc. They actually made some money from the films and were able to purchase this series of cottages perched on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

On any given long holiday, Andy was always invited to stay with us, since technically he was the landlord. After each stay, Victor and I would rummage through the garbage at the cottage that Andy stayed in to see if there was any worthwhile garbage we could keep. To our astonishment there was NO GARBAGE, not even the boxes from the rolls and rolls of film Andy took over the long weekend.

Not until I started to work for Andy, did I realise what a pack rat he is. Some say it’s because of his poor Eastern European immigrant roots, but it’s more likely that he saw the potential of anything that been touched by a celebrity as worth something.

One of the numerous duties I had to perform when I worked at the Factory or the Warhol studio, was packing, sealing and dating all the TIME CAPSULES. To bury a time capsule in one’s backyard is an American folklore tradition that children like to do. Andy’s take on celebrityhood as a business culminated in the series of standard-sized cardboard boxes filled with used AA Duracell batteries, opened and unopened letters addressed to him, candy wrappers after the candy was eaten, gift boxes of chocolates etc. 

Some days Brigid Berlin, our resident Warhol superstar would scowl: “Andy! Just imagine all the cockroaches you are going to attract!” You know what, I am sure when they open some of those Time Capsules one day, there will be some dead ones in there, but they are Andy’s."