About photobooks – old and new.
Title: Index (Book)
Author: Andy Warhol
Published by Random House, A Black Star Book, New York, in 1967; 8000 hardcover copies and 12 000 softcover copies were printed.
4to, Hardcovers illustrated with holographic image affixed to the cover, while the softcover only has a printed silver and black picture (see photos).
Includes pop-ups and fold-outs.
“Index (Book)” signals a new creative step in Warhol’s book making and a quintessential pop art photobook. Warhol had always been interested in graphic design, well before becoming an artist. He designed several literature book covers and later on also created personal artist’s books, such as A Gold Book in 1957 and Wild Raspberries in 1959. But “Index” was soon perceived as a revolutionary direction in the artist’s book domain, as expressed by the co-founder of the publisher Random House. The insertion of pop-ups and several objects requiring the reader’s participation – blowing up a balloon or constructing a three dimensional object for instance – intended to give the reader a total sensory “experience”.
That innovative dynamic design, with all the pop-ups, is considered to reflect a moment in book history, highly influenced by Marshall McLuhan’s ideas on media. McLuhan’s defended the idea that the “media is the message”, calling attention to the intrinsic effect of communications media, rather than focusing on its content. This has shaped Warhol’s idea of preparing an artist’s book with effects on the senses.
The collaboration of Christopher Cerf, who was known for designing artist’s pop-up books in the 1960s, was certainly an important factor in that direction. At the beginning Cerf sent Warhol samples of past pop-up gimmicks for inspiration, such as the airplane, that ended in Index, as well as a greeting card with a pop-up castle, which had been created for Hallmark in the mid-1960s by Brad Holland.
In tune with the Factory’s world of the 1960s, a 45rpm record with Lou Reed’s face was inserted in the book. The idea was that readers would play the record to listen to a discussion about the book itself. One can hear Alan Rinzler, from Black Star photo agency, explaining to the Factory crowd what the Index (Book) is about. The disc also includes some reaction from the public. One can hear Nico’s voice asking about the disc content, to which Rinzler replies “you”. She calls it “a sentimental book…we are not really that sentimental…or we are not supposed to be”.
The photographic style chosen for this book is also quite audacious. Many of the Factory photographs were taken by Billy Name – in a stream-of-consciousness style – with the collaboration of Gerard Malanga and Stephen Shore among others. But Warhol preferred to reproduce photostats rather than the original photos, resulting in high-contrast images. The text is a compilation of excerpts from the Factory’s cache of press clippings. The silver cover chosen for this book was emblematic of Warhol’s studio atmosphere, wallpapered with aluminum foil. But before choosing this final version, at least four mock-ups for the Index covers were created.
The massive number of copies printed mirrors Warhol’s overall approach to art, but it also reflects the glory days of Andy Warhol as the American pop artist of the 1960s. As Cerf had said, “Warhol’s book is itself an exaggeration of everything that has been happening in the “now” world of the arts.” The book was a tremendous success then and remains highly collectible despite its high number of prints.