Pop Artist Exceeds 15 Minutes of Fame
PITTSBURGH — THE Campbell's Soup cans will be on Floor 6, next to the reproductions of Heinz products and Brillo Pad boxes - not far from the Marilyn Monroe portrait. This collection could only be the work of one artist, of course. On May 16, the Andy Warhol Museum will open its doors here in Pittsburgh.
The $12.3 million project is being billed not only as one of the world's biggest repositories of Pop Art, but also as the most comprehensive museum in the United States dedicated to a single artist.
``This is an enormous commitment,'' says Tom Armstrong, the museum's director. ``No institution as yet has taken on the challenge of integrating a single artist in the fabric of the institution.''
The Andy Warhol project will be one of the museums of Pittsburgh's famed Carnegie Institute. The institute is collaborating on the project with the Dia Center for the Arts and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Inc. Mr. Armstrong hopes to raise at least $20 million as an endowment fund to support the new museum.
One reason the museum is so large is Warhol's varied oeuvre. Not only a painter and sculptor, he tried his hand at film (see story, left), journalism (as publisher of Interview Magazine), and rock music (a producer of the Velvet Underground). The museum has more than 800 of his paintings, more than 400 drawings, and tens of thousands of photographs - far more than it can exhibit at any one time.
One of the most intriguing aspects of the museum will be its archives. Warhol saved everything, eventually keeping a packing box by his desk. He'd throw in tape-recorded phone conversations, gallery announcements, even the socks airlines used to give their passengers. He once included a piece of birthday cake.
When a box was filled, Warhol dated it and sealed it up. There are more than 600 of these boxes - referred to as Warhol's ``time capsules'' - and the museum's archivists will have to catalog what's inside. (The cake has probably been removed, however, Mr. Armstrong says.)
Since Warhol made his mark in New York and abroad, it might seem unusual for his museum to reside in Pittsburgh. But this is where the artist - Andy Warhola, originally - grew up and attended college (at what is now Carnegie Mellon University). His parents, Andrej Warhola and Julia Zavacky, immigrated from Ruthenia.
Seizing on the local connection, the late Sen. John Heinz and other Pittsburghers lobbied hard to locate the project here. They convinced the Carnegie to support it at a time when other museums were reluctant to commit the necessary funds.
Armstrong is confident people will come.
``Our audience will be extraordinarily varied,'' he says. Students of modern popular journalism will have to study the impact of Interview magazine.
People interested in rock music will want to find out more about the Velvet Underground. ``If they're interested in popular culture, they'll have to come to Pittsburgh.''
* After three days of inaugural festivities, The Andy Warhol Museum opens May 16 for a special introductory week.