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Past Exhibition The Velvet Underground & Nico: Scepter Studio Sessions

May 12–September 25, 2023

Cover art for The Velvet Underground & Nico, a screen printed image of a banana with Andy Warhol's signature below it

The Velvet Underground, The Velvet Underground & Nico, 1967
The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Founding Collection, Contribution The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

The Velvet Underground & Nico: Scepter Studio Sessions highlights the Velvet Underground and the music from their first recording sessions in April 1966 at Scepter Studios in New York City. Recently identified while processing Andy Warhol’s archive at The Warhol, the nine initial tracks recorded by the band were the bedrock of their debut album The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967, Verve Records), which became one of the most jarring and influential albums in rock music. These monophonic reel-to-reel ¼” tapes feature alternate versions and mixes of songs later issued on the 1967 release, which was produced by Warhol, and often referred to as the “banana album”, as it featured a peel-away banana on the cover designed by Warhol.

The Velvet Underground’s relationship with Warhol began in late 1965 and evolved into the band’s incorporation in his multi-sensory productions, Andy Warhol, Up-Tight, and Exploding Plastic Inevitable. Stepping into his role as producer, Warhol also secured studio time to record their first album at Scepter Studios in New York City. In April 1966, the Velvet Underground recorded their songs unsigned to a record label and without executive oversight which allowed them greater creative freedom. As Warhol encouraged the band to stay true to their sound, the battered studio provided the home to the Velvet Underground’s first professional recording session. Although an acetate version, which was made from these master tapes, was released for the 45th anniversary of the album, it is of a different sonic quality, given the generation loss inherent in an analog copy.

The music from the tapes will play continuously in the gallery and will be accompanied by a large selection of photographs by Steve Schapiro from 1966-67 of the Velvets, Warhol, and associates, as well as Exploding Plastic Inevitable performances. Also on view will be rare, unseen footage of the band performing live, more than thirty Warhol Screen Tests featuring the five members of the band filmed during the peak of their collaboration in 1966, and 100 copies of the “banana album”, all from the collection of Velvets enthusiast, Mark Satlof, which highlight the listener’s interaction with Warhol’s art.

The Velvet Underground & Nico: Scepter Studio Sessions is curated by Ben Harrison, senior director of performing arts and programming, in collaboration with Matt Gray, director of archives, and Greg Pierce, director of film and video.

The Velvet Underground & Nico: Scepter Studio Sessions is made possible through support provided by the Curatorial Vision Fund. Leadership support for the Curatorial Vision Fund is provided by The Fine Foundation, Jim Spencer and Michael Lin, and Scott M. Mory.

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