Andy Warhol Museum Pittsburgh

The Andy Warhol Museum is the largest single-artist museum in the United States. It’s a treasure-trove of Warhol’s work and consists of paintings, sculpture, 610 Time Capsules, archival material, and thousands of photographs and drawings. The collection offers an intimate and comprehensive look at Warhol’s rich and varied practice. I am still surprised at the depth of the collection, and I am constantly discovering new facets of Warhol’s life and work.

What was the biggest influence of Andy Warhol?

Warhol had an early fascination with celebrity culture. As a child, he was diagnosed with St. Vitus Dance, a neurological disorder that left him home in bed, under his mother’s care and glued to the radio. During these early years, while recovering, he wrote to celebrities for their autographed headshots. The scrapbook of photographs is in the museum’s collection and offers a glimpse into Warhol’s early interest in icons of cinema and his studied understanding of what it meant to be a celebrity. From this early age, Warhol was grappling with the mechanics of fame and its inherent relationship with desire.

What distinguishes The Andy Warhol Museum?

The wonderful thing about the museum is that you get to really experience and understand Warhol’s practice as it developed through the decades. You can see amazing paintings by Warhol in many of the major museums in New York, NY, and Los Angeles, CA, but it is here in Pittsburgh, PA, that you can see masterworks as well as Warhol’s early student and commercial work. It’s a unique experience to see an artist’s student work in dialogue with his mature projects. For Warhol, the early techniques used for his graphic design work, cropping and selecting images with great currency, were fundamental to his work as a Pop artist. It was his ability to highlight these images, which were already circulating in American culture, reformat them, and reinstate them into the American unconscious. It’s the reason why so many of his paintings remain contemporary. Visitors can see Warhol’s student work in the exhibition which I just co-curated with Matt Wrbican, the museum’s chief archivist, Pearlstein, Warhol, Cantor: From Pittsburgh to New York.

How many time capsules were found after the death of Andy Warhol?

The museum has 610 Time Capsules in its collection. All have been opened, but we are still in the process of cataloging their contents. They represent another side of Warhol’s practice and his commitment to archiving his work and life.

How big is the art collection of Andy Warhol, and what does it include?

The art collection of The Andy Warhol Museum includes more than 8,000 works (900 paintings; approximately 100 sculptures; nearly 2,000 works on paper; more than 1,000 published and unique prints; and 4,000 photographs). The collection provides an in-depth view of every period of the artist’s creative life, from the 1940s through the 1980s. Drawings by Warhol’s mother Julia Warhola are also included in the art collection. The museum’s archives consist mainly of Warhol’s papers and other materials from his estate. This includes source materials for his art (such as photographs, newspapers, and magazines); a portion of his personal collection of thousands of collectibles, books, and ephemera; 610 Time Capsules (a work of art assembled from archival materials from the artist’s daily life); a nearly complete run of Interview magazine; more than 3,000 audiotapes; and clothing, scripts, diaries, and correspondence. The film & video collection includes 60 feature films, 200 of Warhol’s Screen Tests, and more than 4,000 videos. Exhibition prints of all Warhol films and videos are added to the collection as they are preserved.

What is the masterpiece of Andy Warhol’s work?

One of the masterworks, and one of my favorite paintings in the collection, is Elvis 11 Times(1963), a massive canvas (measuring 82 x 438 in.), which Warhol painted for his second solo show at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles, CA. It was also the first time that worked with an assistant, Gerald Malanga, who became interwoven into Warhol’s circle as an actor in his films and as a popular face in photographs from the Silver Factory. Warhol painted the Silver Elvis series as a complete installation that was meant to be hung from edge to edge in the gallery. Since he couldn’t make it to Los Angeles for the opening, he asked the gallery director Irving Blum to cut the canvases, which is why today the size of these canvases and the repetition of Elvis vary. The other wonderful quality about this painting is that it speaks to both film and painting. Elvis functions as an icon of the silver screen and his floating, fading image bends and blurs almost like a filmstrip, which is an effect that one can only experience in person. With this painting, Warhol was engaging the politics and boundaries of painting in a subtle and yet highly sophisticated manner.

What can we expect in the near future?

We’re starting to take a more contemporary approach to the exhibition calendar, while also still developing exhibitions that tell different, untold narratives about Warhol’s life and practice. We’re also engaging local artists. I’ve been developing an exhibition series called Exposures, which features the work of recent graduates and emerging artistic talent in Pittsburgh. Our summer and fall artists include Elizabeth A. Rudnick and Travis K. Schwab, both Pittsburgh painters.

For more information about the museum please visit: Warhol Museum

Interview courtesy of Warhol’s Assistant Curator Jessica Beck

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