Meet the man who catalogues Andy Warhol’s 500,000 objects | Backstage | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

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Meet the man who catalogues Andy Warhol’s 500,000 objects

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Matt Gray - CP PHOTO: JARED MURPHY
  • CP photo: Jared Murphy
  • Matt Gray

Name: Matt Gray, Regent Square

Work: Project Cataloguer, Archives Collection at The Andy Warhol Museum

What do you do?
It’s never one thing by definition. Every single item that is included in an exhibition or a published work, no matter how big or small, has to be cataloged. A lot made it into Time Capsules, more logically arranged and easier to search. But that’s only one part of the collection — a small percentage that's the most researched and exhibited part. Everything else from [Warhol's] life was not as organized. 

And there’s a lot.
It’s huge. We say 500,000 objects, which is rounding it down. Andy was the definition of a pack rat. He loved to hold onto things. It’s hard to say the amount of value he put on them, but it’s safe to say that he kept almost everything, so he must’ve valued their materiality. There are photographs of the dropping-off of a literal tractor trailer full of his life. 

Is it a start, work, finish process for each item or group?
There are typically multiple things at once, some like specific exhibitions or publications within the confines of deadlines. Our focus is always changing because we have so many different things happening. I’ve worked on projects that I’ve gone back to after a year to make updates on. We’re constantly revising previously made records because there’s always something else to learn.

And parts of the past can additionally be impacted by what's happening here and now?
There was a series of Warhol's Ladies and Gentlemen that our curator Jessica Beck tied into Devan Shimoyama’s recent exhibition of paintings here. Even though they were created separately at two different times by two very different artists, we were able to contribute archival material to provide historical context to support the entire exhibition.

How do you know what’s important?
You see something like a letter and think that’s just a regular letter. But if you understand how it fits into his life, you create context in his art-making process. There’s so much material, it’s hard to say what’s “valuable” and not. If everything is being viewed as important in its own right as we work to understand how it fits, it gets tricky, so we rely on research. 

What’s your background?
Undergraduate [degree] in photography, master of library and information science at Pitt.  

What do your studies paired with your artistic work bring into play here?
A combination of the practical side of art-making and the archive side of organizing that knowledge. I still shoot a lot of photography; I understand how it’s created. I can apply that knowledge to Andy’s practice so I can add that level of knowledge of the art-making process, which creates a more fleshed-out record.

How’d you start here?
I was a gallery attendant as a part-time job. That’s how I learned about Warhol and fell in love with being here all the time.

How does professional work here inform your personal work?
My photography is very organized at home. 

Were you not like that before?
Not so much. Being so heavily involved here has definitely impacted my personal practices, that’s for sure. I’m not as much of a hoarder as Andy was, but I definitely have been contributing some kind of value to objects I might just throw away.

Artistically, Andy was able to look at mundane and everyday objects and bring the level of high art. Not that I’m trying to do that with my photography, but I keep finding myself taking pictures of mundane, everyday, boring scenes. I don’t know if that’s the practice that he’s forming or just a way of staying present in the moment and being appreciative of what surrounds me. That’s kind of what pop was. 

Do you destroy the things you don’t want anybody to see after you’re dead now?
I should really start. 

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