Installation view of Andy Warhol: Screen Tests at The Museum of Modern Art, New York

This exhibition presents twenty-eight selections from MoMA’s collection of approximately five hundred portrait films made by Andy Warhol between 1964 and 1966, the period when he realized his revolutionary vision of celebrity. Using a stationary camera, Warhol manipulated light and shadow in increasingly inventive ways to capture the appearance, style, personality, and mood of both famous and lesser-known visitors to his studio, the Factory. For each silent, black-and-white film portrait, subjects—including “Baby” Jane Holzer, Cass Elliott, Dennis Hopper, Gerard Malanga, Beverly Grant, Edie Sedgwick, Susan Sontag, and Salvador Dalí—were seated, initially instructed not to move, and filmed straight-on (most often in close-up).

Although each film was shot at standard sound speed, or twenty-four frames per second, Warhol specified that prints be projected at a slower speed of sixteen frames per second, a rate used in the projection of silent films. The result is an unusual fluidity of pace, a rhythm gently at odds with the starkness of the lighting and the boldness of the close-ups of face and hair. Transferred from 16mm to DVD for gallery exhibition, these arresting and influential works are innovative both as film and photograph, reinventing traditional portraiture through deceptively simple means.

Organized by Mary Lea Bandy, Chief Curator, Department of Film and Media.

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