Kiwi Arts Group presents Warhol in London: Behind the Lens of William John Kennedy, a month long exhibition on Chiltern Street until 20 December. Featuring over 20 black & white and colour photographs of Andy Warhol that until recently had laid hidden in a dusty box. It is the first time the collection has ever been exhibited in the United Kingdom since it’s unveiling in Miami Beach during Art Basel in 2010.
A few short years ago American photographer William John Kennedy brushed off a long forgotten dusty box headed for the rubbish bin after it lay in storage for nearly five decades. That rescued box would later reveal a collection of extraordinary works of art Kennedy created with the help of Andy Warhol in a series of photo sessions on the cusp of his meteoric rise to fame. The recovered archive of Kennedy’s negatives has been transformed into a collection of limited edition color prints and gelatin silver photographs capturing the most important images Warhol ever created. The photographs have now become part of several important public and private collections around the world, with one standing 4 meters tall as the focal point of The Andy Warhol Museum.
“It was fate…imagine the New York art scene in the 1960s, historically it was a pivotal period in so many ways and on the eve of Andy’s worldwide fame. From the first moment I stepped into Warhol’s Factory, I immediately sensed the enormous importance of what this guy was doing. You could feel the electricity running through his veins, you just knew his vision would shape the future in a major way – I wanted to capture that energy. Maybe I shouldn’t have waited so long to print the photographs!” -William John Kennedy
The exhibition was put together by a London collector and Kiwi Arts Group – the publisher of the photographs from the Kennedy archive. The show will host several charity receptions and special events to include Make-A-Wish Foundation UK, The Sick Children’s Trust, KidsOut Foundation, Variety – The Children’s Charity, World Jewish Relief, The Independent Film Trust, The Happy Tenant Company, Rowan Dartington and Coutts Bank.
This exhibition provides a rare opportunity to view the photographs and purchase (starting at £2000) the limited edition gelatin silver and color prints from the collection, with a substantial portion of the proceeds going to charity. Also for the first time, several never before published original Kennedy photographs of Warhol are being released at the London show.
Kennedy’s work extends his exploration of documenting the artist, their subjects and art as one. Young and eager, equipped with the lessons from Pratt Institute and The School of Visual Arts Kennedy worked his way up to Studio Manager for one of Vogue Magazine’s greatest fashion photographers Clifford Coffin. He soon began to point his lens at the New York art scene. Abstract Expressionism was on it’s way out and Kennedy joined the revolution challenging the traditional views on what defined art at that moment in time. He felt a kinship to the new approach that Warhol, Robert Indiana and others artists around him presented. After an introduction to Warhol by Indiana while photographing at the Museum of Modern Art in 1963, Kennedy promptly found himself in Andy’s newly minted studio sharing ideas.
It was early 1964 and Warhol was still not that well known outside of New York. With a combination of great timing, uncanny foresight, incredible talent and good looks Kennedy became friendly with the publicity hungry Andy. During several visits to The Factory the two worked together planning their storytelling through Kennedy’s lens as they cut, stapled and pasted together Warhol’s paintings with found objects – creating sui generis works of art that appear in no other place. Kennedy began to capture a still boyish looking Andy as both playful and serious, skillfully snapping the carefully staged vignettes. Warhol was the star, his newly created artwork became makeshift props and the East 47th Street Factory served as the set, while Kennedy directed. The historic images that follow capture Warhol with his soonto-be iconic works in an unprecedented way. Kennedy’s photographs are truly unique, providing a window into Warhol’s inner world through his lens with the artist’s most famous masterpieces just before he became a global phenomenon. It is almost as if both Kennedy and Warhol were prescient of Andy’s unimaginable future fame.
“Kennedy knew intuitively that the only way to truly see Warhol was to see his art. In uniting Warhol the man with Warhol the artist, Kennedy has given us some of the most joyous and insightful images of Andy Warhol ever created. The photographs are both engaging and rare, and they most definitely depict the artist at a pivotal moment, just before his career exploded. Remarkably, Kennedy kept his archive in storage for nearly 50 years. Now the Andy Warhol Museum is delighted to be involved in bringing these images to a wider public.” – Eric C. Shiner, Director of The Andy Warhol Museum
You might not know his name because William John Kennedy previously only exhibited a single photograph of Andy Warhol from his archive in 1967 at a New York show titled Homage to Marilyn Monroe. His work appeared alongside Salvador Dali, William deKooning, Richard Avedon, Bert Stern, Cartier-Bresson, Phillip Halsman and 35 other artists that help shape 20th Century art. Then he quietly tucked the negatives in a box and placed them in a closet to collect dust. Kennedy is only now finding his name among the artists of his time, as he reveals this truly historic body of work to the world nearly half a century later.