When Andy Warhol died unexpectedly on February 22, 1987, he left a vast and complicated inventory of works of art and personal possessions. His will dictated that his entire estate, with the exception of a few modest legacies to family members, should be used to create a foundation dedicated to the "advancement of the visual arts." In its early days, the Foundation brought artists, curators, administrators, educators, critics and others together to help it shape a responsive, committed and engaged philanthropic organization. The grantmaking program that grew out of these meetings and the Foundation’s ongoing efforts to protect and enhance its founder’s creative legacy ensure that Warhol’s inventive, open-minded spirit will have a profound impact on the visual arts for generations to come.
The primary focus of the Foundation’s grant making activity has been to support the creation, presentation and documentation of contemporary visual art, particularly work that is experimental, under-recognized, or challenging in nature. The program has been both pro-active in its approach to the field of cultural philanthropy and responsive to the changing needs of artists. A strong commitment to freedom of artistic expression led the Foundation to play an active advocacy role for artists during the culture wars of the 1990s and continues to inform its support of organizations that fight censorship, protect artists’ rights and defend their access to evolving technologies in the digital age.
Through cooperative exhibitions, loans and permanent placement of work in museums nationwide, the Foundation has ensured that the many facets of Warhol’s complex oeuvre are both widely accessible and properly cared for. Ongoing preservation and restoration of works in the Foundation’s care complement these efforts. In helping to establish the comprehensive collection and study center of The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, the Foundation paved the way for new Warhol scholarship and curatorial innovation as well as greater public understanding of Warhol’s profound significance. The Foundation’s sustained support and oversight of thoroughly researched, extensively illustrated catalogues raisonnés of Warhol’s entire artistic output expand the possibilities for scholarship even further.
The Foundation has used its ownership of the copyright to Warhol images as an opportunity to craft creative and responsible licensing policies that are friendly to scholars and artists wishing to use Warhol images for educational and creative purposes, and profitable to the Foundation when the images are used for commercial purposes. Revenues from licensing agreements add significantly to those earned through the continued sale of work from the Foundation’s remaining art collection, enabling the Foundation to build the endowment from which it makes cash grants to arts organizations around the country.
Today Andy Warhol’s impact on artists, art institutions and the creative culture of our country is stronger than ever. The Foundation’s programs and initiatives continue to evolve and expand to address the needs of the visual arts community nationwide.