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Best Museum 

The Andy Warhol Museum

click to enlarge Eric Shiner: backed by Andy Warhol - PHOTO BY BRIAN KALDORF

The Andy Warhol Museum
117 Sandusky St., North Side
412-237-8300 or www.warhol.org

City Paper readers who voted The Warhol Pittsburgh's "best museum" might like it even better next year. Eric Shiner, the museum's director since July, has big plans for the institution's layout and programming.

"I'm really thinking about ways to reimagine the visitor experience," says Shiner, 39, who formerly served as a Warhol curator.

Next spring, Shiner hopes to begin revamping the lobby of the seven-floor museum. The renovations will transform the lobby from a lounge area to one that actively tells the Pittsburgh-born artist's story -- a mission that visitor feedback suggests The Warhol has drifted away from, Shiner says. The space will still double as a venue for the museum's typically fabulous opening receptions and special events. "Once we get the space done, it's going to be the best party environment in Pittsburgh," says Shiner.

You'll also see the café (currently in the basement) supplant the gift shop, and the gift shop move to a larger first-floor gallery space. "The main question the gallery attendants get is, ‘Where's your store?'" says Shiner. "Why not expand [the store] and include more product and more diverse product?"

The commerce-minded Warhol would no doubt be pleased.

The Warhol drew 113,000 visitors in 2010. Shiner hopes to continue increasing its appeal to first-time and one-time visitors -- who together constitute 60 percent of attendees -- as well as repeat visitors. To that end, Shiner foresees more programming that meets the audience half way. He notes, for instance, the popularity of a current show featuring the work of superhero-comics artist Alex Ross. And an exhibit arranged around Warhol's interest in cars -- including a BMW racing car hand-painted by Andy himself -- is timed to coincide with next year's Pittsburgh auto expo.

Still, when Shiner says he envisions a museum that's "much more family-friendly," he doesn't mean "watered-down." 

"A child sees a work of art very differently from an adult," says Shiner. "We want to engage all those audiences, and we want to do it in a smart and intellectual way that makes sense for the audiences we're talking to."

And he pledges that the exhibits, whether drawn from Warhol's own archive or the work of other artists, will be both world-class and provocative. Coming next year, for instance, are Warhol Headlines, a touring show about how Warhol used newspaper headlines. Drawn mostly from the museum's collection, the exhibit is now at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Also scheduled: Regarding Warhol: 50 Artists, 50 Years, about Warhol's vast influence, co-produced with the Metropolitan Museum of Art; a show in 2013 by famed Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei; and a retrospective by Japanese artist Yasumasa Morimura.

"People in the region have a huge pride that this museum is here," says Shiner, himself a New Castle native. But The Warhol isn't just popular here: In November, an online-metrics outfit reported that the Warhol had some 390,000 Twitter followers -- the seventh-most of any museum in the world.

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(Sorry, no information is currently available for other years in this same award category.)

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