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Warhol Press Conference Turns Into a Big Event : Art: The Pittsburgh museum, to open May 16, is called the largest showcase for a single artist in America.

NEWSDAY

For sure, Andy Warhol, who invented Fame, as we know it, presided over Tuesday’s press conference to announce the May 16 opening of the Andy Warhol Museum.

The museum will open in Warhol’s hometown of Pittsburgh; the press conference took place at Mr. Chow, a midtown Manhattan restaurant with a sufficient modicum of art-world chic to lure not just press but enough art world luminaries to produce the kind of sizzle that produces coverage, that produces crowds, that means hot .

The tawdry, backbiting, big-money, big-art court trials and scandals that have beset the Andy Warhol Foundation for months were firmly shoved out of the limelight, as Picasso biographer John Richardson announced “the largest museum to a single artist in America, and perhaps the world. It is,” he noted, “larger than the Musee Picasso” in Paris. Richardson, who took the occasion to remind the audience that he gave Warhol’s eulogy in St. Patrick’s Cathedral after the artist died after a gallbladder operation on Feb. 22, 1987, said that the museum “should not be seen as a mausoleum but as a place where Andy’s protean work will continue to exercise its magic.”

Tom Armstrong, former director of New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art and now director of the Andy Warhol Museum, hailed Warhol as “an artist who changed our concept about the nature of art.”

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The museum will be born with 3,000 of Warhol’s works, 500 of which will be on display on separate floors for the opening, which, Armstrong, said, will be inaugurated with “three days of raucous revelry,” including a tour of the Pittsburgh sites of Andy’s life, fireworks at midnight and a 24-hour museum open house.

It is located at 117 Sandusky St. in Pittsburgh, in a 73,000-square-foot warehouse built in 1911 and renovated at a cost of $12.3 million by Richard Gluckman Architects of New York. To fit both Andy’s fecundity and his rat-pack instincts (“Only the FBI kept more comprehensive records than Andy,” said Richardson), it was necessary to build an Archives Study Center, a film theater and a coffee shop, complete with cowhide banquette to complement Andy’s signature cow wallpaper.

Central as Andy’s position is in the rethinking of what is art and what is culture in the late 20th Century (and what, for that matter, is 15 minutes of fame), the real reason for the size of the museum, and for the hoopla, is that it is the joint effort of three powerful art world institutions. The museum belongs to the Carnegie Institute, and is a collaboration between the Carnegie, Dia Center for the Arts and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Inc.

Dia is the prime outpost of the avant-garde in New York these days. The Foundation is at the heart of the legal tangle, with director Archibald Gillies pitted against longtime Warhol manager Fred Hughes, and Hughes, in turn, in legal battles with his lawyer, Ed Hayes. Everyone at the press conference made a point of praising both Gillies and Hughes, no sides taken there.

Agnes Gund, chairman of the Museum of Modern Art, said quietly that some people think Andy is enjoying all the trauma.

And then everyone went home with a door prize in a silver bag: a Campbell’s Soup Piggy Bank.


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