William John Kennedy's 'Lost Archive' of Andy Warhol and Robert Indiana Photographs - opens in London

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William John Kennedy's 'Lost Archive' of Andy Warhol and Robert Indiana Photographs - opens in London
Shot by the late William John Kennedy in the early 60s, these images, which were lost to the world for nearly 40 years, capture the two men in the nascent stages of careers that would come to redefine the landscape of contemporary art.

LONDON.- A Central London residence entirely dedicated to exhibiting the forgotten photographic archive of 1960s photographer William John Kennedy (b.1930 - d.2021), who documented bohemian New York life and many of its most fascinating characters will be open to visit from April 2nd.

Based in the heart of London, the Warhol Kennedy Residence is home to a largely unseen archive documenting two true giants of late 20th Century art, the genuinely iconic Andy Warhol and Robert Indiana.

Shot by the late William John Kennedy in the early 60s, these images, which were lost to the world for nearly 40 years, capture the two men in the nascent stages of careers that would come to redefine the landscape of contemporary art. The Warhol Kennedy Residence is the only place that one can experience the collection in its entirety and purchase editions of these utterly unique images.

William John Kennedy’s most intriguing body of work was rediscovered in the mid noughties when he and his wife found a set of negatives and transparencies that he had taken of artists Andy Warhol and Robert Indiana from 1963-1964, a crucial moment in their respective careers. Nestled away just moments from The Strand, The Warhol Kennedy Residence houses this fascinating photography collection.

The collaboration began in 1963 when William John Kennedy met Indiana at a New York art opening and Kennedy shortly began taking photographs of him in his Coenties Slip studio. They became friends and Indiana then introduced Kennedy to Warhol at the Americans exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in May of 1963. Kennedy was subsequently invited to the Factory and went on to photograph Warhol and many of his circle including Gerard Malanga, Ultra Violet and Taylor Mead.

“Eventually Robert introduced us to Andy Warhol, who asked Bill to the Factory. Andy, of course, was this strange bird. When I was in his company, he was very shy, you had to draw him out. But he was much more relaxed with Bill. Bill came up with all these ideas for pictures – getting Andy to wear paintings like sandwich boards or pose behind the acetate for his Marilyn Monroe screen prints – and Andy always went along with him.” – Marie Kennedy, The Guardian

Kennedy’s archive has been the subject of a coffee table book William John Kennedy: The Lost Archive (ACC, 2022) and an acclaimed documentary Full Circle (2010) which includes moving footage of Kennedy reunited with Robert Indiana and surviving Warhol superstars. Now these rare Indiana and Warhol photographs can be viewed in London.

Highlights from the storied archive include Kennedy’s portrait of Robert Indiana with his most famous creation, Love, claimed to be the world’s most reproduced artwork. Kennedy recalled Indiana phoned him out of the blue “He said, ‘Bill, come on down I want to show you something. So I went down to the studio and there he was, holding his Love painting.”

The Homage To Warhol’s Marilyn, one of Kennedy’s most recognisable images now hangs in the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. It was shot in early 1964 during Kennedy’s first photo session with Warhol, with a complex visual composition that sees Kennedy physically integrate Warhol with his work.

‘In the image, Warhol stands in The Factory, sunlight flooding through the window, illuminating him as he holds aloft the acetate of Marilyn Monroe that would later make some of his most famous paintings. Here we see Warhol in a new way – young, triumphant, about to conquer the art world through transforming the images of movie stars that were his childhood refuge. We literally see Warhol through his art.’ – Patrick Moore, the Andy Warhol Museum

Another highlight on display at The Warhol Kennedy Residence is the William John Kennedy: The Warhol: Museum Edition, a rare and highly collectible box set. This limited-edition portfolio, signed in the colophon by William John Kennedy, is comprised of four hand-printed gelatin silver photographs and one chromogenic print. It is assembled in a custom designed hand-made archival aluminium box, accompanied by 6 smaller archival aluminium boxes that include a Foreword, Introduction, and 5 Essays. The portfolio is produced by KIWI Arts Group in a 22” x 28” size exclusively created for The Andy Warhol Museum and is limited to an edition of 50 with 5 artist proofs.

Perhaps the most striking feature of these Warhol photographs is that, as Kennedy himself described, they seek “to involve [Warhol] totally, physically, with his artwork”. There are also many stunning colour photographs of Warhol, they are intimate, unguarded, and show him at ease, smiling, relaxing. This capacity to make his subject feel at ease whilst applying his unique approach to the visual narrative of his portraits are some of the many fascinating idiosyncrasies in Kennedy’s work.

According to Eric Shiner, director of the Andy Warhol Museum, these portraits of Warhol are by far the most evocative. “The Kennedy photos are perhaps the most intimate portraits of Andy that I have ever seen,” Shiner says. “They capture him at the point of his arrival as a true art star and yet he remains his humble, fun-loving, playful self in each frame. They humanize him in a way that few photos do, and if anything, they add to the mythology of Warhol as the benevolent, happy person that he truly was, and yet is rarely celebrated as.”

Much of Kennedy’s career was spent working under the radar primarily as an advertising/commercial photographer whose original material was handed to the advertising agencies he worked for. But fine art photography was always at the heart of his passion, and up until the early 2000s he developed a full body of work from his travels around the globe.

The Warhol Kennedy Residence, London, offers a truly unique setting to experience these significant photographic works whilst honouring the legacy of their subjects and the artist behind them.

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