The Andy Warhol Museum Celebrates 20 Years in Pittsburgh
The Andy Warhol Museum celebrates 20 years in Pittsburgh with a sold-out gala, a splashy new exhibit, and a chronological artwork reinstallation that shines light on the city’s role in Warhol’s perpetual 15 minutes of fame
By Liz Petoniak
Photos from The Andy Warhol Museum
When I decided to make Pittsburgh my home almost a year ago, I compiled a “Pittsburgh bucket list” of more than 50 restaurants, activities, cultural events, and places I wanted to visit. I finally crossed The Andy Warhol Museum off my list a few months ago while my brother was in town for the weekend. As we explored the different floors, we discovered a symbiotic relationship between the museum, its visitors, and its host city. My brother and I discussed the works in front of us, mused about Warhol’s collaborations with artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, and played with the Silver Clouds, without feeling like we were breaking an awkward silence, because other museum goers — students, families, an entire soccer team, and out-of-towners — were doing more than simply observing, too. They were interacting, and making connections with the works in front of them. Explaining this relationship, Director of The Andy Warhol Museum Eric Shiner says, “We provide a starting off point for dialogue based on our exhibitions, collections, and programs. Pittsburgh returns the favor in the form of engaged audiences, philanthropic supporters, and a dynamic place to call home.”
Dynamic is right. Since The Andy Warhol Museum opened its doors in May of 1994, Pittsburgh has transformed from a rust belt relic to a city that shines on a national level. The museum has carried on Andy Warhol’s legacy as it simultaneously developed into a beacon of innovation in the community. “When we first opened, I think many people thought that an alien spacecraft had landed in their midst, but now Pittsburghers view the museum as a source of civic pride,” says Shiner. The museum’s current programming includes social evenings every Friday; weekday Gallery Talks; concerts and a live art series; an archives study center; a number of educational programs; screenings of Warhol’s films in the Warhol Theater; live video feed of the artist’s grave site; traveling exhibits; two mobile phone apps; and multiple interactive elements, such as a vintage photo booth where visitors can create their own “Warhol.” Today, the museum is a destination. According to Shiner, The Warhol now averages 2,000 visitors per week and welcomes more than 120,000 visitors a year. He also revealed that the museum’s 20th Anniversary Gala on May 17, which will bring together the artist’s supporters from all corners of the world, sold out without extending a single invitation.
The museum continues to push forward with an extensive renovation of all seven floors, aimed at improving visitor experience and providing a more personal view into the artist’s life, as well as greater insight into Pittsburgh’s role in his trajectory. The facelift began last October as the museum transformed the first floor lobby by expanding The Warhol Store and creating the new “Factory Lobby,” meant to emulate the artist’s Factory in New York City, while also paying tribute to Pittsburgh’s own industrial past. The museum will complete the remaining renovations in time for a debut at the 20th Anniversary Gala. The revamped café, complete with a new menu, will move upstairs. And most notably, the entirety of the museum’s works will be rehung chronologically, which Shiner says will show visitors how Pittsburgh became the “launchpad of Andy’s life and career.” Never before seen pieces will also premier, in addition to a new orientation biopic starring some of Warhol’s closest friends, that “will also shed light on the importance of Pittsburgh to Andy’s artistic and promotional development.”
Furthermore, attendees of the gala and those who visit the museum with free admission on the 20th Anniversary Community Day on May 18, will be the first to see The Warhol’s exciting new exhibit, “Halston and Warhol: Silver and Suede.” The exhibit will explore the astounding connection between Warhol and Halston, the iconic fashion designer who ran in the same avant-garde artistic circles as Warhol from the late ‘50s through the ‘80s. Halston commissioned Warhol to create pieces for his personal collection and almost exclusively collected his artwork, which he hung in his Manhattan townhouse and his vacation home in Montauk that he incidentally rented from Warhol. Halston and Warhol also connected on a number of art collaborations as well as fundraisers for the Martha Graham Dance Company. Lesley Frowick, Halston’s niece, co-curated the exhibit and as such, many of the pieces come from Frowick’s personal collection of her late uncle’s designs. The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and the “Halstonettes,” the jet-set glamour girls who loyally wore his designs everywhere with him, will also loan important outfits for the exhibit. The Warhol is pulling artwork and videos with relationships to the outfits.
PNC Financial Services will present “Halston and Warhol: Silver and Suede,” one of eight Warhol exhibits it has sponsored since 2005, including five outside of Pittsburgh. Chief Communications Officer Donna Peterman explains that supporting the arts, and Warhol’s art in particular, has proved to be a “great calling card” to introduce the PNC brand to the communities it serves. “Andy was an incredible artist and understood the connection between art and commerce. He was not afraid to use art to further business interests, which makes The Warhol a perfect partner for PNC. We don’t apologize for the fact that we think it’s a great way to build our brand. We think that Andy would totally approve,” says Peterman.
We think Andy Warhol would approve, too. In fact, we believe that he would be thrilled by all of the progress the museum and the city have made over the past 20 years. Shiner says, “Having been there at the beginning, I know that many people were shocked that the museum had decided to open not in New York City, but in Andy’s hometown of Pittsburgh. And thank goodness that was the case. I’ve watched us grow from a fledgling institution into a world-class museum over the past two decades, and I’ve seen minds open and perceptions change thanks to the good work that we do. I know that Pittsburgh is a much more forward-thinking city because of our presence, and I hope that trend continues over the course of our next 20 years.”
A staple in our community, we can’t imagine our city without The Warhol. Cheers to another 20, and let the celebration begin!
The Andy Warhol Museum, 117 Sandusky St., North Shore. 412.237.8300. warhol.org
The Andy Warhol Museum, lobby, photograph copyright of Abby Warhola. William John Kennedy’s “Homage to Warhol’s Marilyn,” 1964, courtesy of the KIWI Art Groups, serves as one of the focal points of the new Factory Lobby, complete with silver-painted walls. Kennedy says that the photo of Warhol looking through the acetate silk screen he used to make his “Marilyn” paintings at the Factory is his favorite photo that he took of the artist. “Andy was a free spirit. My first impression was [that] this guy is about to be a superstar. When you walked in the door [to The Factory] you could immediately feel the creative energy,” he says.
The Andy Warhol Museum, exterior, photograph from Ric Evans.
The Warhol Store, The Andy Warhol Museum, photograph copyright of Abby Warhola.
Andy Warhol, Halston, 1974, copyright of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. Frowick says, “Halston definitely left his mark on American fashion history. People are always talking about him. Every few weeks or months, his name comes up in the fashion blogs or magazines.”
Andy Warhol, Lesley Frowick, 1985, copyright of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. Halston’s niece, photographer Lesley Frowick, co-curated the “Halston and Warhol: Silver and Suede” exhibit. Her biography on Halston is set to hit bookstores this fall.
Halston, Dress, 1972, Ultrasuede, The Museum at FIT, Gift of Mrs. Sidney Merians. Frowick says, “Halston’s designs were easy and they were elegant. His lines were clean and comfortable and he used a lot of cashmeres and ultrasuedes [as shown in the shirtdress above] that were very easy to wear, but also made a statement when you walked down the street.”
Halston, Evening dress with print based on Warhol’s Flowers painting, 1964-72, Silk, Knit, courtesy of the Indianapolis Museum of Art. “The piece that will tie the exhibit all together is the Warhol flower dress,” says Frowick.
Halston, for Bergdorf Goodman, Pillbox Hat, early 1960s, copyright of The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. Halston designed the iconic pillbox hat, as made famous by Jacqueline Kennedy, while working as the head milliner at Bergdorf Goodman in the early 1960s.
Andy Warhol, Flowers, 1964, copyright of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. “I remember picking up Andy, then heading to Flushing, Queens to photograph him in a field of flowers I had spotted. It was marvelous,” says photographer William John Kennedy. “I have nothing but fond memories with Andy; he was a remarkable individual.”
Andy Warhol, Diamond Dust Shoes (Random), 1980, copyright of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. Frowick says, “Warhol was known to have a shoe fetish, and he collected Halston’s shoes. I remember there was a series of diamond dust shoes that Warhol had done and one of them [at left] is going to be in the exhibit. It was beautiful, innovative, and luxurious.”