Back in the 1960s it seemed that Andy Warhol had everything—money and fame, a stellar career as an artist, a great residence and a greater studio, legions of friends and hordes of admirers. But, unbeknown to the public, Warhol had even more than all that: he had clutter, too. Profound clutter.
Warhol's appetite as a collector was legendary, but that was only part of the story; he was also, it seems, quite an accumulator. Much of his clutter he picked up casually—on the street or in a theater or a café or a shop he happened to pass—and much of it simply showed up unbidden, courtesy of the United States Postal Service. In that regard he was like everyone else—but on a much, much larger scale.
His solution to the problem was no less large. From time to time he would scamper around, scoop up his clutter, and pack it into a huge cardboard box, which he would then seal and label. Ever conscious and nurturing of his celebrity, Warhol called these boxes "time capsules" (each box was marked "TC"), and he eventually accumulated so many of them that they became the very clutter they were supposed to eliminate. Today 612 of them are in the possession of the Andy Warhol Museum, in Pittsburgh; once in a while, when he can spare the time and the manpower, the museum's archivist, John Smith, will have his staff open one, catalogue its contents, and then repack and reseal it. So far the curators have gone through about a hundred time capsules, but still, Smith says, "we never know what we're going to find." A typical TC, No. 31, was most likely packed up around March of 1968; it contains books and magazines and newspapers and phonograph records and posters and postcards and letters and telegrams ("Sorry about the phone call, I'll call back when I have something to say") and notes and invitations and Christmas cards and junk mail and flyers and used plane tickets and bills and receipts and coupons and exhibition catalogues and photographs and résumés and screenplays and a couple of drawings and even a few uncashed checks. "We've found cash in some of them too," Smith says. "And contracts and agreements. Often times, going through them raises more questions than it answers."
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