Attraction of the Week: The Andy Warhol Museum
Andy Warhol is arguably the most famous person born in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh magazine recently ranked the pop art icon #6 on the list of “The 50 Great Pittsburghers of All Time.” He joins the ranks of Mr. Rogers, Andrew Carnegie, H.J. Heinz, and Jonas Salk, amongst others. Out of a sizeable lists of artists and entertainers, Andy Warhol is the most famous Steel City native.
Pittsburgh is home to a museum focused solely to the artist. On an interesting note, The Andy Warhol Museum is the largest museum in the country dedicated to a single artist. Since opening in 1994, the museum has remained one of the city’s most popular attractions.
Warhol was born in a working class neighborhood of Pittsburgh, attended Carnegie Mellon University, and later moved to New York City to become an illustrator. His painting career began in the 50’s when he took the advice of a former art teacher to “paint what he liked.” Warhol’s paintings of ordinary items like Coca-Cola bottles and Campbell’s soup eventually exhibited in L.A. and New York.
In the 60’s, he began mass producing images of popular celebrity icons as well as notable brands. The use of the silkscreen technique allowed him to transfer popular media images easily. Displaying numerous versions of the same image in vivid colors eventually became his trademark. According to this Columbia article, Warhol used the Campbell’s logo without permission for many silkscreen prints. Campbell’s later approved the usage due to the free advertising.
A section of the museum focuses on Warhol’s early life in Pittsburgh. Included are family portraits and early drawings. Before exploring the extensive collection, you may want to watch Fifteen Minutes Eternal, a 30 minute film which offers a nice introductory overview of Warhol’s life and art. Ask the admission desk for a schedule.
A few early drawings of cats
Pop art movement
Warhol is considered to be the icon of the pop art movement. For those unfamiliar, this type of colorful art work is based on mass media trends. The movement started in the 50’s and became popular in the US and Great Britain in the 60’s. The unique and eye catching use of bright colors really makes this artwork stand out. Many museums across the country feature some of Warhol’s works. If you have ever visited the Art Institute of Chicago or the Smithsonian American Art Museum in D.C., you likely have explored pop art. Read more about the pop art movement.
Pop art appeals to almost everyone as the art is based on everyday life. Beginning in the 50’s, Americans began to share a common culture based on media. In the 1950s as disposable incomes increased, the love of consumerism and mass media grew. Read more here.
One of Warhol’s most famous quotes:
“What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know the president drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke, and no amount of money can get you a better Coke.”
A 2019 Superbowl ad used the famous quote, “A Coke is a Coke.”
Campbell’s Soup Cans and Marilyn Diptych, a silkscreen painting portraying Marilyn Monroe (both 1962) are 2 of Warhol’s most famous works. In this museum, you will be able to enjoy an entire floor dedicated to vivid pop art paintings.
The Museum Collection
The current collection includes 900 paintings, 2000 works on paper, 100 sculptures, 1000 published and unique prints, 4000 photographs, and more. Most famously, the museum showcases a large collection of pop art from the 1960’s. From consumer products, to famous celebrities, the colorful pieces really pop out and make a bold statement.
The 7 floor layout includes everything from 1940’s student artwork and continues on through the 1980’s. One floor is dedicated to archives, and another to special exhibits. A quick look at a few of the featured works:
Warhol worked in fashion which influenced much of his art. He started his early career as a illustrator for Vogue. Later, he became friends with many prominent designers and made portraits of well-known designers like Armani and Versace. He was fascinated by shoes and worked for several years as a shoe illustrator for I. Miller. The silkscreen Shoes paintings featured at the museum are fascinating.
Another unique exhibit is entitled Cats and Dogs. Andy’s mother, Julia, inspired a love of cats in him from a young age. During the 50’s and 60’s, he lived in NYC with his mother and 25 cats. All cats were named Sam except for one. As a cat lover, this was my favorite part of the museum! A few pet portraits on display.
Overall, the museum is a must-visit for fans of Andy Warhol or contemporary art in general.
Location & Pricing
The museum is located at: 117 Sandusky St, Pittsburgh, PA 15212. Hours are 10am-5pm, daily except Tuesday.
Pricing: $20 adult, $10 senior, child, student. Note that Bank of America members get in for free the first full weekend of each month as part of the Museums on Us promotion. This is a fabulous deal as The Carnegie is also included.
Parking is $8 unless a special event is taking place. Also, there is street parking although it is quite expensive ($4 per hour).
The Andy Warhol bridge
Also in the region is the Andy Warhol bridge (est. 1926). As the “City of Bridges,” Pittsburgh is home to 446 architectural wonders. Interestingly, the Andy Warhol bridge is the only bridge in the country named after an artist. This bright yellow bridge really stands out, as do the 2 other yellow bridges (Roberto Clemente and Rachel Carson) located on either side. The bright bridge is located just down the street from the museum. There is a short pedestrian path which you can walk across and take in great views of the skyline and Alleghany river.
Recommended attractions in the area
Numerous restaurants and attractions in the Cultural District are easily accessible via a quick 10 minute walk across the bridge. A few fun places to explore:
Alleghany Landing Park – Small park featuring a few interesting sculptures and pretty views of the skyline.
Heinz History Center – Smithsonian affiliate featuring 6 floors of Western Pennsylvania history.
Point State Park – This beautiful city park marks the joining of the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers. Today, a National Historic landmark, the park features a beautiful fountain, a large grassy area, and a long biking/walking path.