A rare, unfinished film by Andy Warhol, Sunset is a meditation on the temporality of an everyday phenomenon. Warhol began making the film in 1964 when the Menil Collection founders John and Dominique de Menil commissioned the artist to create a new film, one with spiritual significance. Warhol shot sunsets in San Francisco, East Hampton, and New York City, but never completed the project, stating, “I filmed so many sunsets for that project, but I never got one that satisfied me.”
The film originated during a productive period of filmmaking for the artist; he made more than 600 films in five years. In Sunset and in some of his better-known films such as Empire, 1964, or Sleep, 1963, Warhol explored the moving image through real-time footage and static shots.
Here, a sunset over the Pacific Ocean in California unfolds as a slow and colorful shift of atmospheric light at dusk. As the sun sinks to the horizon, the deep voice of the singer Nico, who was then working with the Velvet Underground, is heard reading poetry off-screen.
Sunset was restored and re-released in 2000 as part of The Andy Warhol Film Project, begun in the 1980s to research, catalogue, and preserve the artist’s massive—and for a time, relatively unknown—moving-image body of work. The Andy Warhol Film Project is a collaborative archival research project of Whitney Museum and The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Warhol himself gave his approval to the project and handed over his original films to MoMA for cataloguing and storage in 1984. This presentation of Sunset is curated by Michelle White.
Daily screening of the 16mm film held Wednesday through Sunday at 6 p.m.
In the spirit of Warhol’s meditative film, share your best photos of the transitioning sky using #menilsunset on your favorite social media platform.
This exhibition is generously supported by Pelican Builders; Janet and Paul Hobby; Anne and David Kirkland; Harry and Karen Pinson; Susanne and William E. Pritchard III; Mark Wawro and Melanie Gray; Michael Zilkha; and the City of Houston.