Andy Warhol wasn’t much for earth tones. He preferred bright colors, the cyan-magenta-yellow of color newspaper inserts and the shiny hues of plastic and metal. The first of the pop artist’s studios was called the Silver Factory, named for walls painted and tin-foiled by his lieutenant, Billy Name. (Name had already done his own apartment in reflective silver, reportedly a popular decor among 1960s amphetamine enthusiasts.) Later, Warhol would wear silver wigs and make abstractions by urinating on canvases painted with metallic pigments.
In 1966, Warhol’s thing for glossy surfaces found a more childlike expression. His “Silver Clouds,” first shown at Leo Castelli Gallery, was an exhibition of pillow-shaped silvery balloons designed by Bell Labs engineer Billy Kluver, one of the founders of E.A.T. (Experiments in Art and Technology). The Scotchpak clouds were filled with a mix of air and helium, so they would hover rather than cling to the ceiling. They might nudge visitors to the gallery, and those visitors might nudge back. Since its 1994 opening, Pittsburgh’s Andy Warhol Museum has made newly fabricated clouds available for interactive museum installations around the world; 150 of them are now afloat at Rosslyn’s Artisphere.