I travel a lot for work and I like it. I like going to new places, seeing new things, eating new foods, and best of all – getting to know new people.
With a free afternoon on a recent business trip to Pittsburgh and based on a recommendation from my dear sweet wife, I headed across the Andy Warhol Bridge (yes, indeed) to the fabulous North Shore neighborhood to check out the Andy Warhol Museum.
Here are the top five things you should know as a first-timer about your visit to the Warhol Museum:
First, it’s accessible and incredibly close to any part of downtown Pittsburgh.
Don’t let anyone tell you it’s “out of the way” or “across the river” – which is what I’d been led to believe. I was staying at a hotel near the Pittsburgh Convention Center. But imagine my surprise when my map-app told me it was only a five-minute drive. Yes, it’s part of the North Shore area, technically across the river. But the fun is that you can simply take the Andy Warhol Bridge, drive straight for three blocks at the other side, park, and go in. Easy peasy.
Second, I can almost guarantee you’ll learn something at this museum that you won’t soon forget. Warhol is famous for his paintings of Tomato Soup cans and colorful depictions of Marilyn Monroe and Mick Jagger. But did you know Warhol sculpted? (And if you did, did you know he sculpted with huge silver Mylar balloons?) Did you know he had a stuffed lion? Did you know in 1968 a disgruntled writer shot Warhol (she thought he had stolen her ideas), was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital, but was revived? Yes, uh-huh, and yep.
Third, you probably guessed that Warhol was a Pittsburgh native, but did you know that for many years he was one of the most notable and sought-after personalities in New York City? Several displays point out Warhol’s intoxicating personality and affinity for the cutting edge. He routinely opened his studio (called the “Factory”) in New York City for guests, parties, and other events. In his 50s, Warhol signed up with a New York City modeling agency and began appearing in commercial print and television advertisements for products such as TDK and Braniff Airlines. By then, he didn’t need the money or the fame – he simply was interested in doing new things.
Fourth, the Warhol Museum is organized from the top-down in seven floors. Start at the top for displays of his youth in Pittsburgh, family heritage, and early influences. Then you move down floor by floor, each floor basically representing a decade of his career. It is fascinating to see through Warhol’s eyes the technological developments of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s – and indeed he was an early adopter of film, the Polaroid camera, and videotape.
Finally, Warhol was a hoarder – but in a good way. (The museum says he was an “obsessive collector.”) Whether or not he knew that someday his life would be examined so closely, in the 1970s he started putting his possessions in boxes that he called Time Capsules. For storage, for keeping memories, or perhaps for no reason at all since the plethora of boxes annoyed his colleagues who sometimes found Warhol putting discarded food items into his Time Capsules.
Thankfully for us, the collection of 610 boxes today is pretty staggering. Imagine if you had 600+ boxes of stuff that you’d saved through your teenage years, college years, early married life, and career. There’s no imagining with Warhol – he simply collected the odds and ends of his life and they’re on display while the Museum catalogues the contents of each Time Capsule.
And yeah, it feels a little indecent to look at all this personal, stuff. Though by the time I got to the Time Capsule display, I justified it based on the simple fact that Warhol made his life and his living pushing the boundaries of acceptable behavior. Or maybe I’m just a hoarder-enabler….
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOUR VISIT:
- The Warhol Museum is located just a couple of blocks from the Pittsburgh Pirates’ home field, PNC Park, in the North Shore neighborhood.
- The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday until 5 pm but stays open until 10 pm on Fridays.
- Admission is $20 for adults, $10 for students and children – well worth it.
- There’s a very comfortable coffee shop and lounge in the first floor of the museum, no admission fee required to grab a snack or a coffee and hang out before or after a visit.
- Parking is a problem throughout Pittsburgh, and it’s no different on the North Shore. Public parking is available in nearby surface parking lots and parking garages, but since it’s so close to wherever you’d be staying, you’re better off with a cab or a car service.
- Is the Museum ok for kids? Ummmm, probably not little kids who’d be bored and their parents who may need to shield them from some of the racier aspects of Warhol’s work. My suggestion would be 12 and up, both for content and for interest level.