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Nearly lost archives of Warhol negatives find their fame aboard Seafair megayacht
The collection finds a new home aboard the SeaFair megayacht during Miami International Art Fair.

MIAMI, FL.- At the age of 81, fine art photographer William John Kennedy began an unprecedented journey and meteoric rise to fame. His recently published archive of negatives from 1963 and 1964, when he befriended and photographed rising stars Andy Warhol and Robert Indiana, was quietly introduced to the public by publisher KIWI Arts Group as a collection of silver gelatin prints at a pop-up gallery in Miami Beach last December. After six stops in major international cities and debuting at SCOPE Miami during Art Basel Miami Beach, the collection finds a new home aboard the SeaFair megayacht during Miami International Art “MIA” Fair (January 12 – 16, Booth #312), a five day extravaganza of art and culture taking place along Miami’s waterfront.

The curated, museum-style exhibition dubbed “Before They Were Famous: Behind the Lens of William John Kennedy” introduces the pivotal moments and players who shaped the course of American art in the second half of the 20th century. From Kennedy’s images of the groundbreaking exhibit Americans 1963 at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, curated by the esteemed Dorothy Miller, to the artists with their iconic works—plus never-before-heard 1960s audio conversations between Warhol and artist Ultra Violet—the overall multimedia experience will transport visitors through an important piece of art history.

Anyone following the trajectory of photography’s commercial value over the past few years will note the market is blazing hot. Prices commanded at both auctions and galleries reflect an insatiable appetite for buying up vintage and contemporary works.

Having only been in the marketplace for 11 months, portions of the limited edition of 60 of each image have sold as much as 50%, among them Warhol looking through the Marilyn Monroe acetate and Robert Indiana holding LOVE—though selling quickly, some of the images in the collection are still available in the $3000 range. Had Kennedy’s $20 million collection been circulated in the marketplace when they were created in the 1960s, it might now be worth four or five times that amount. A single image of Richard Avedon’s limited edition 1957 portrait of Marilyn Monroe recently sold at Christie’s for $231,000, after 1997 sales in the $13,000 range. Avedon’s photograph shared exhibition space with Kennedy in 1967 at the famed Sidney Janis Gallery in its Homage to Marilyn Monroe exhibit, the only gallery show in which Kennedy participated in that era.

More profound than just a snapshot of a historic moment in time, Kennedy’s photographs—which lay in storage for nearly 50 years—have come to life to tell their stories from the perspective of a supremely gifted artist. Kennedy captured rare moments through his lens of these now legendary artists whose work would later become some of the most recognized images across the globe. Each perfectly composed photograph in Kennedy’s collection will undoubtedly find its own way to fame.

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