The Warhol at 20: Pittsburgh’s museum achieves celebrity status

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Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Institute took a gamble 20 years ago when it opened a museum dedicated to the work of a single artist — and a controversial, enigmatic one at that.

Andy Warhol, the Pittsburgh native and Carnegie Institute of Technology graduate, practically created what we now know as celebrity culture, living an outsized — some called it outrageous — life that blended art and performance in New York City until his death in 1987.

But would his enormous, wide-ranging creations and collections — pop art prints and paintings, sculptures, photographs, film, music and more —fuel enough interest to draw a steady stream of visitors to sustain the museum that bears his name?

The answer is obvious now, on the 20th anniversary of the opening of the Andy Warhol Museum. Like the artist himself, the Warhol has grown in prominence in the art world since it opened its doors in May 1994. It is the smallest of the four components of the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, a collaboration with the Dia Art Foundation and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, which inherited and controls his works.

The museum’s 88,000 square feet of space over seven floors can display only about 10 percent of the massive collection at any one time, and the museum also sends traveling exhibits across the country and around the world.

Andy Warhol left Pittsburgh for New York while he was in his early 20s. At about the same age, the Warhol museum will be sending an emissary to Manhattan’s Lower East Side, in the form of a 10,000-square-foot branch that is to open in 2017. The aim is to give a wider, international audience a small taste of the collection and draw more visitors to the North Side institution.

Pittsburgh, in the words of museum director Eric Shiner, always will provide the main course. For the past 20 years, the Andy Warhol Museum has delivered a rich artistic feast.


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