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Snapshot of art history becomes lasting resource of instruction, outreach, and research
Museum registrar Danielle Funderburk unpacks the Warhol photograph of John Oates.

AUBURN, AL.- With donations from Auburn University alumni and community partners, Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art is the winner of an online auction of an Andy Warhol photograph from Christie’s Auction House. The eight-by-10 black and white photograph features Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2014 nominee John Oates in 1981 wearing a “War Damn Eagle” T-shirt. The museum staff sought to acquire the photograph, not only to add to its existing Warhol collection of 150 photographs, but also to advance the mission of research, instruction, and outreach to “The Auburn Family.”

Hall and Oates recorded six Number One hits and put 34 songs in the Billboard Top 100. Oates visited Auburn in May with the group on a tour of southern colleges in 1981. “When we came to town, we were welcomed into town by a barbecue place, which was kind of fun, and I recall going to the student store,” said Oates. “I had never heard the term ‘War Damn Eagle,’ but I thought it was really cool.” Oates said he knew Warhol from living in New York City, along with graffiti artist Keith Haring. “Andy would come to our shows. I used to go over to The Factory, where Andy did his work, which was kind of an older loft building. It was a very small community, believe it or not. It seems legendary now with the perspective of time. He was always taking pictures.”

Because Warhol was rarely without his camera, Oates said he wasn’t sure exactly when this photograph was captured, but that it was flattering to be part of the museum’s collection. “I have, by accident, become a certain part of art history. Andy was so ahead of his time and prophetic in terms of where the world has gone in making stars. If interest because someone knows me or my music helps generate interest in the university, Andy’s work, or other aspects of the fine arts, then everyone benefits.”

Auburn alumnus L. Nick Davis, ’84, attended the Hall and Oates Concert at Beard Eaves Memorial Coliseum and was part of the museum’s development effort to secure funds for the acquisition of this photograph. Davis said he was glad to bring the photograph home to the Plains not only for nostalgic reasons, but also to possibly raise awareness of this campus and community asset. “The art museum expands our exposure to artists, media, and important art that we wouldn’t have easy access to if the art museum did not exist. We have it in our own backyard.” Davis said he felt it was important to support the work of the art museum to build prestige, the collections, and allow staff to bring dynamic exhibitions and programming to Auburn. Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art is the only accredited university art museum in the state of Alabama.

The museum will use excerpts of a recent phone interview with Oates to produce additional outreach content that viewers can access with mobile devices. In the audio clips, Oates shared memories of Auburn and the art movements he was exposed to in New York City’s Greenwich Village and Soho. The museum also plans to exhibit six artist silkscreens donated this year by The Warhol Foundation in a future permanent collection exhibition.

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