MILWAUKEE — Andy Warhol kept boxes upon boxes of soup cans, receipts, fan mail and many other items, including thousands of photos he used as inspiration for his giant paintings.
Now more than 180 colleges and university museums and galleries around the nation are benefiting. New York City's Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts has donated to them more than 28,500 of Warhol's photos, worth $28 million.
"This is a little-known body of Warhol's work," Jenny Moore, curator for the foundation's Andy Warhol Photographic Legacy Program said. "I think most people are familiar with the paintings and even the sculptures and . . . we really wanted the chance to let a broader audience gain access to his photographic work, which is of course the basis of so much of his artistic production."
Each of the public educational institutions has generally received about 100 Polaroid and 50 black-and-white photos from the 1970s and 1980s, Moore said. They have given a majority of the photos since they started the program in 2007 but are still giving more, she said.
The photos include celebrity snapshots, couples, nudes, painting ideas, party photos, still lifes and outdoor scenes. He often used the photos as the inspiration for portraits, silk screen paintings, drawings and prints.
Four colleges and universities in Wisconsin received photos, including the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater's Crossman Gallery. Gallery director Michael Flanagan said they received about 80 photos this month. He immediately put a few into their permanent collection exhibition, which ends Feb. 13. Warhol is by far the most recognizable name in their collection, he said.
"It's nice for the students," Flanagan said. "It's a name that most of them recognize. Now they get to see the actual object."
When Warhol died in 1987, he indicated he wanted the foundation to be dedicated to "the advancement of the visual arts," Moore said.
"This is something he would have been very exited about," Moore said. "For people to be able to see the kinds of things that interested him that made it into painting and prints."
Moore said the foundation focused on institutions that could not acquire works on their own and those that could properly care for the photos. For those that already had Warhol in their collections, the foundation hoped to "enrich the breadth and depth of their holdings," according to the foundation Web site.
"We've really tried to gift to kind of the smallest institutions all the way up to larger encyclopedic universities' museums," Moore said.
The museum at Bard College in Annandale on Hudson, N.Y., received 158 photos in early 2008 through the program. Marcia Acita, assistant director at CCS Bard Hessel Museum of Art, said more than a dozen graduate students used one of Warhol's Polaroids of Marieluise Hessel, who founded Bard's Center for Curatorial Studies and Art in Contemporary Culture, for an exhibition last year.
Acita said they received nine Polaroids of Hessel. Warhol took them to help him come up with his acrylic on canvas silk screen of Hessel in 1981, which the museum also owns.
Having such a famous artist's work in hand enriches students' experiences, she said.
Warhol published three books, one posthumously, featuring his black-and-white photos. They were Andy Warhol's Exposures in 1979, America in 1985 and Andy Warhol's Party Book in 1988.