Nobody at the Nelson Gallery at UC Davis knew what to expect in the box of 150 photos that arrived last week from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.
The gallery is one of 183 academic art museums that were given a box of photos taken by the prolific pop artist from the foundation’s archive of 23,543 such pictures.
The public opening of the box in Davis on Friday was billed by museum officials as an event resembling journalist Geraldo Rivera’s famous unveiling of Al Capone’s vault on live national television. But unlike the vault opening, Friday’s event uncovered something interesting: five vintage photos of California’s first couple.
There is a Polaroid of Arnold Schwarzenegger posing for his Warhol portrait in 1977. And the one of Maria Shriver doing the same, around the time the two got married in 1986.
Another photograph features the couple with their wedding cake.
Opening the box, said gallery director Renny Pritikin, “was kind of like a time machine, going back to the days of Warhol’s glory and seeing the life he led among these artists and celebrities of society.”
Schwarzenegger was just becoming a celebrity when he met Warhol. That was after “Pumping Iron,” the documentary that made Schwarzenegger a star, was released. At Schwarzenegger’s request, the film’s publicity agent arranged a luncheon with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Warhol was there.
The bodybuilder and the artist shared an uncanny ability to attract publicity, and the two became friends. Schwarzenegger was “moving from bodybuilding into movies,” said former Los Angeles Times reporter Joe Mathews, author of “The People’s Machine: Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Rise of Blockbuster Democracy.” “It was a period in his life where he sort of got culture.”
Warhol painted multi-paneled portraits of both Schwarzenegger and Shriver. One of the panels of the vivid Shriver portrait hangs in the governor’s office. The others hang in the couple’s residence in Brentwood.
The subjects of the rest of the photos were an assortment of random people and objects, including golf legend Jack Nicklaus.
To view all five photos, go to latimes.com/california.