Your details


Update your details || || Logout


In this section:

Warhol's lost digital works - Cassone got there first!

— April 2014

Associated media

The Washington Post has been most excited by the 'discovery' that Andy Warhol was a pioneer of digital art. In fact, Cassone revealed this in October 2011. Part of Darrelyn Gunzburg's report is reproduced below.

The Washington Post has just caught up! They say the work had been lost till last Thursday - er, no, not really! Read on...

In May 2011 my partner and I were staying with our friends Don and Dorian Greenbaum in Massachusetts. I was waxing lyrical about an interview I had just completed with Elliot Davis at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. Don looked at me, plainly struck by a sudden thought: ‘Are you interested in a story on Andy Warhol's original digital art?’

In 1985, Don Greenbaum was the chief financial officer for Commodore International, in New York. Don shared an office in the Seagram Building with the chairman, Irving Gould. Commodore acquired the Amiga computer in 1984 and spent $27 million on completing both hardware and software design. By the spring of 1985 the Amiga 1000 was way ahead of anything available on the market. It boasted video of 4096 possible colours, 8-bit stereo sound, 256K of memory and a graphic interface of 248 colours, all of which was revolutionary. The IBM PC still operated in black and white. Also, the Amiga could handle Paint programs with which neither the Apple, nor the PC, nor even the Commodore 64, could compete. More importantly, the colours and memory allowed for the development of highly sophisticated (for the time) graphic processing.  It was clear this was a machine that could be important to artists.

Stephen Greenberg handled Commodore’s public relations. When the official launch was being planned he wanted a Pop artist to introduce the Amiga to the art community. Greenberg knew Andy Warhol personally and Andy was highly receptive to the idea.  On 14 June 1985, Andy went to the Seagram Building and Don gave him a demo of the machine and the drawing software.  As Don says, ‘Andy was captivated with this new medium and spent a lot more time with us than he planned’.  So Commodore hired him to produce some art for the planned July launch and appear at the launch. 

They outfitted Andy’s 33rd Street studio with a prototype Amiga. As the machine wasn’t yet on the market, it came with pre-production software: a pre-release version of an art program called Pro Paint. Don was the only employee in New York proficient with the Amiga and so Irving Gould asked him to work with Andy. Don visited Andy’s studio several times, and worked with him when issues arose. Andy was enthralled with the machine and quickly set out to learn the software and master the mouse – at the time a little-used device.

Don remembers it all vividly. ‘He was in his own world. You could talk to him but you could see that behind the eyes the mind was always thinking way ahead of you, focusing on what he could do with the machine rather than what you were telling him. His first attempt at a signature was what you expect an adolescent to scrawl with a crayon.  Within a day he was signing his iconic signature.  What was interesting was that this was a man who didn’t use a computer, but once he clicked on Autofill or on one of the drawing tools, he never forgot it. I’d go back a week later and he’d be doing stuff as if he’d taken a tutorial on every single thing the software did, and a couple of times he said “It would be neat if you could do this or you could do this or you could do that”.’

On 15 July 1985 Island Graphics (developers of the Paint program) rushed over a new version of Graphic Craft, fixing bugs that were hindering Andy’s progress.  Don called on Andy to deliver it and see how he was faring (the launch was now only week away).  There on the Amiga computer screen were images of Marilyn Monroe, self-portraits, lilies, a dollar sign, even a Campbell’s soup can. Andy had played around with all his iconic ‘calling cards’ and all were expressed in this mint-new computer graphics medium. Andy had Don copy nine of them onto a floppy disk for delivery to Commodore’s marketing arm, which was preparing the launch material.  The highly excited advertising executives wanted Andy to do a live computer portrait at the launch. Andy, also enthusiastic about this new medium, wholeheartedly agreed. The launch was held at Lincoln Center on 23 July 1985, and you can still see Andy’s Amiga launch portrait of Debbie Harry on YouTube.... Cassone subscribers, click here to read on to learn how Don Greenbaum and Allesandro Barteletti persuaded the ancient disks to yield their content.

Not a subscriber? Contact us now for free no-strings one-week trial subscription


Other interesting content

Read news from the world of art