Andy Warhol: Time Capsules

Featured in the Collecting Lessons
Display of objects found in Andy Warhol's Time Capsule 12, ©AWF

The Time Capsules are Warhol’s largest collecting project, in which he saved source material from his work and an enormous record of his own daily life. Warhol began creating his Time Capsules in 1974 after relocating his studio. He recognized that cardboard boxes used in the move were an efficient method for dealing with all of his "stuff." Warhol selected items from the daily flood of correspondence, magazines, newspapers, gifts, photographs, business records and material that passed through his hands to put in the open box by his desk. Once the box was full, he sealed it with tape, marked it with a date or title and put it in his archive. Collectively, this material provides a unique view into Warhol’s private world, as well as a broad cultural backdrop illustrating the social and artistic scene during his lifetime. From the early '70s until his death in 1987, Warhol created 612 finished Time Capsules.

During this time period he was not only incredibly busy making art, but he was also collecting everything from cookie jars to contemporary art. An obsessive collector, Warhol constantly scoured auction houses, antique stores, and particularly flea markets for new treasures to add to his many collections. Warhol collected Fiesta ware, World's Fair memorabilia, Art Deco silver, Native American objects and folk art. He often acquired large collections as well - Hollywood publicity stills, crime scene photographs and dental molds. All of these activities reflected his interest in Pop art and his inspiration: consumer culture.

Andy Warhol’s Time Capsules were almost completely unknown until his death in 1987. Although various studio assistants frequently handled the boxes over the years, few people seemed to recognize the enormous mass of material as anything other than “Andy’s stuff." With the opening of The Andy Warhol Museum in 1994, the Time Capsules became accessible to curators, scholars and the general public, revealing new and important information about Warhol’s life and expanding the public’s understanding of Warhol’s work and practice.