An Andy Warhol Campbell's Soup can print sold last month for $12 million at Christie's, the New York City auction house. But a local Walgreens drugstore has managed to rent five Warhol prints for a lot less.
In place of toilet paper and detergent, the Warhol prints of a turtle, a cantaloupe, the Brooklyn Bridge, Muhammad Ali and Ingrid Bergman fill the windows of the Centre Avenue side of the Walgreens that opened in May at the new EastSide retail-and-loft development in East Liberty near Shadyside. EastSide's developer, The Mosites Company, gave a four-figure donation to the North Side's Andy Warhol Museum in exchange for a year-long display, according to museum director Tom Sokolowski. Neither side would say the exact amount of the donation.
Both Sokolowski and Colleen Russell Criste, the Warhol's director of development, emphasize that this arrangement, a first for the museum, was made as a public art project. Well-heeled patrons who wish to hang a Warhol in their mansions ... even lesser works, such as those at Walgreens ... won't be able to create a similar arrangement.
Putting Andy near the candy aisle is the brainchild of Bill Kolano, a design consultant for Mosites.
"I kept thinking: How can we bring high art to the streetscape?" says Kolano, whose EastSide project will also include Borders Bookstore and Music, a Starbucks and a spa. "How can we bring that to everybody in the street?"
The museum's curatorial staff lent Walgreens art from its collection of "ex-edition prints," experimental prints done before the artist nailed down the ink mix for his final prints. They carry relatively little financial value, but do have an educational purpose, says Sokolowski.
"It's about getting to the people," says Sokolowski, "instead of making people come to you."
Kolano is a member of the city's Contextual Design Advisory Panel, which reviews design proposals of businesses that occupy prominent places, such as corners of major intersections. He says he wanted the Walgreens windows to continue the feel of neighboring Whole Foods, which sports a mural and a mosaic on its façade. Apparently he succeeded.
"I wouldn't know this is Walgreens," said Briana Kelly, 27, of Park Place, as she strolled past the drugstore in late May. "It does make it pretty ... and less junky."
And it's only fitting that a commercial development is adorned by art that embraces the commercialization of culture. After all, says Sokolowski, quoting Warhol, "Shopping is an art form."