In today’s print edition, you’ll find Nadine Wasserman's reviews of two temporary exhibits closing Sunday at The Andy Warhol Museum
: the fascinating 13 Most Wanted Men
and the splendid Chuck Connelly: My America
. But if you haven’t been to the Warhol lately, there are plenty of other reasons to visit, most thanks to the museum’s big rehang, completed in May.
The reorganization is largely notable for its new emphasis on Warhol himself, not just his iconic artworks. Visitors had been telling the 20-year-old museum that they wanted more Andy, says museum director Eric Shiner; the Warhol responded with a virtual three-dimensional seminar on the Pittsburgh native who changed the course of visual art.
And here’s the January bonus: Starting this week, the museum’s Good Fridays series offers free museum admission from 5-10 p.m. every Friday, with a cash bar and music by DJ Huck Finn.
The museum’s new offerings start, perhaps most accessibly, with a new half-hour documentary on Warhol that screens continuously in the museum’s first-floor theater. Jamie Schutz’s good-looking film is a fine primer on Warhol’s life and work, and features entertaining and insightful interviews with the likes of Shiner; Factory denizens Billy Name and Jane Holzer; writer Bob Colacello; and Warhol’s late brother, Paul Warhola.
The other new Warhol exhibits start on the museum’s seventh floor and work down. They include a rich array of Warhol artifacts and important but little-seen artworks, beginning with his birth certificate and a selection of his student artwork from his days at Schenley High School and Carnegie Tech.
There’s also a generous selection of his crucial commercial work from the 1940s and ’50s (department-store newspaper ads, LP covers) and, poignantly, photos of him during those early days, on campus and in Manhattan. Perhaps most fascinating are a whole gallery of his early experiments with pop art, copying newspaper ads and limning consumer products before he hit on the iteration of the Campbell’s Soup can that made his name, in 1962.
You needn’t even be a Warhol fan to find this stuff fascinating.
Arguably, as much of Warhol can be found in what he collected as in what he silkscreened. And there’s a lot more of this stuff, too, including a wall-sized cabinet full of glassware Warhol collected and the chance to see the contents of one of his famous time capsules laid out for easy viewing.
A big draw for film and video devotees is a new media room. Prior to May, the only way to see most of Warhol’s vast catalog of experimental films and TV programs was as they rotated through the museum’s first-floor screening room. Now a huge chunk of that work has been digitized and can be called up and viewed as desired on one of a bank of widescreen monitors, with headphones. You can sample anything from an episode of Andy Warhol’s TV
featuring a puckish early-’80s chat with John Waters and Divine to the whole of the split-screen epic Chelsea Girls
Another groovy new feature is an attempt to recreate the spririt of the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, Warhol’s mid-1960s multimedia sensory-overload extravaganza starring the Velvet Underground. A whole gallery is set aside to pay tribute to the Velvets and overwhelm you with art-rock noise and wall-to-wall projections.
Last but not least, you’ll note that the gift shop has been moved to a former first-floor gallery space, tripling its size. And even the museum’s streetfacing windows on Sandusky have gotten a makeover: The first in an artist series called Exposures
features a clever installation by local artist Daniel Pillis. His recreation the Warhola family’s Oakland living room, circa-1940s, is up through March 1.
The museum is located at 117 Sandusky St., on the North Side.