The Andy Warhol Museum is the largest, single-artist museum in the world. The first time I visited I was 20 years old, attending the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and I hated the museum — I mean hated it. My degree was in graphic design and here was this shrine to a jerk that repainted some other person’s soup can and got fame and recognition for something he didn’t even make up? I was furious.
It took me eight years and a really smokin’ awesome exhibit to get me back in that building; when I did go back, I was pleasantly surprised.
The VADER PROJECT
One hundred Darth Vader masks, customized by an international array of illustrators and toy makers? Um, YES PLEASE. Where do I pay?
Oh, yum. There were helmets that simply served as wicked canvases for acrylic, marker, collage and airbrushing. Others had additions like golden deer antlers, enough bling to make P Diddy proud, and a towering headpiece of artificial fruit. Still more had been modified in varying degrees — one was covered with felt, the top removed to reveal a pink plush brain (I wanted so badly to poke it!); one was turned into a gas mask; there was a giant beetle-like horn on one and a very spiky Statue of Liberty. They were original and fun.
Fine pictures of many of them can be found here.
The other seven floors…
Okay, here’s the thing: I didn’t hate it. I didn’t love it, but I respected it. Sort of. A little.
Andy Warhol recorded everything that happened around him, in all it’s superficial, underground, sometimes-honest glory. As far as artwork goes, I liked his illustration far better than his famous screen prints. The silver balloon room was neat, his urine oxidation exhibit (heart-felt eye roll here) was closed, and a room of giant skull paintings with a little emaciated man — playing with his dong, of course playing with his dong — was actually pretty cool.
The thing I really enjoyed, however, was the extent of his Time Capsules. He saved everything. He apparently kept a box by his desk that he filled with day-to-day items until it was full, at which time he’d close it up, label it and stick with the others. When he died in 1987, there were 612 completed Time Capsules, and now the museum is slowly, carefully opening each one and cataloging the contents. There’s church programs, pictures, correspondence, gifts, etc. I’d be interested in that sort of glimpse for anyone, but considering he was so flamboyant and out there, it makes it all the more interesting.
I left feeling wholly delighted by the Vaders. And what about Warhol’s work? I felt somewhat enlightened, certainly stimulated by images beyond of my normal limits of enjoyment, but admittedly… kind of like I’d been had.
…which was totally worth $7.50.