15 Minutes of Fame with Andy Warhol
It was only fitting to visit the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, PA with a group of celebrities - I was able to tag along with members of the Americana/folk/punk band, The Avett Brothers, on a private guided tour of the inner workings of this pop artist's life. Warhol embodied the definition of the Pop Art movement/phenomenon, surrounding himself with people who were pop icons and prominent figures in popular culture, and maintaining that idea in every aspect of his prolific work. There is always that un-answered question of, 'What is art?' which I don't think will ever be answered without an unbiased opinion. Warhol created sculpture, paintings, prints, TV shows, films, he started Interview Magazine, he was a collector/borderline hoarder, and he himself was a character embodying the idea of celebrity. But is a box of dirty plates, fan mail, old photographs, and some miscellaneous records really art? We were given a tour of the Andy Warhol Time Capsules, over 600 cardboard boxes filled with a sundry of random items found on Warhol's desk on any particular day: in each capsule can be found over 1,000 individually documented pieces including molded food, pill bottles, love letters, clothing, books, and more. We were shown some of the contents of the current capsule being catalogued, and in it was an original RUN DMC tee-shirt from the 1980's. If anything, the contents of these time capsules are fascinating, capturing moments in pop culture history that just cannot be replicated any other way. Snap shots of a time where celebrity was beginning to take shape as we know it today - the foreshadowing quote from Warhol that 'in the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes' is even more relevant now than it ever was with the advent of the internet, social media, and YouTube videos. The 'YouTuber' celebrities (i.e. Justin Bieber) are just a new form of pop stardom that has taken over since the last wave of Reality TV, making celebrity level potentially accessible to anyone - Warhol would be so proud.
After the private viewing of the capsules, we were able to wander the floors of the museum and take in the vastness of Warhol's works: one of his more light-hearted works is Silver Clouds, an interactive piece of silver, metallic balloons being bounced around a room helped by blowing fans and by visitors of the museum reacting to the piece. It was fun, at best, and does make for some great photos. Warhol's Guns, a large painting making the violent tool an iconic figure in art, was one of the most impressive pieces, along with his Skull series. Personally, seeing Warhol's work in a museum is the same as seeing it in a book, with no overwhelming feeling of emotion from my part. However, the mere size of the Skull prints/paintings is so big, that you cannot help but become overwhelmed. I was surprised to find myself having that reaction to his work.
But I would have to agree with touring member of the Avetts, Paul DeFiglia when he said, 'It's almost like Warhol's life was one, big performance art piece.' All of this 'stuff' that Warhol accumulated, whether it be physical relics of popular culture, interviews, sound bites, video clips, clothing, paintings, shoes, trash, junk, whatever you call it, people still crave it and crave that feeling of special. Of celebrity.
THE BARE FEET™ FIVE: 1. Warhol Museum: The Andy Warhol Museum is the largest collection of a single artist's work in the United States. It is an impressive collection and a must-see when visiting Pittsburgh (and the gift shop has some fun stuff as well). 117 Sandusky Street, Pittsburgh, PA 412.237.8300. 2. Interview Magazine: Founded in 1969 by Warhol and initially circulated to the 'In-Crowd' of celebrities, Interview Magazine features sometimes unconventional and often eye-opening interviews with celebrities and influential people of their own time. On sale at your local bookstore, magazine shop, and now available on iTunes. 3. Warhol's Films: Joe Dallesandro was one of Warhol's biggest film stars, and he became a sex symbol in the late 60's and early 70's. You can see his work in Warhol's underground films Flesh and Trash. 4. Warhol in NYC: Warhol loved silver paint, and he was one of the first artists to begin using the color in his works. On the north-west corner of Union Square in New York City, a pristine, silver statue of Andy Warhol stands. Be sure to catch a photo with Mr. Silver himself! 5. The Velvet Underground: Andy Warhol managed the famous NY rock group, The Velvet Underground, a highly influential band on almost every New York rock band following after. Their music is available on iTunes, but of course it sounds better on vinyl...