Back Issues

"Ask me About Andy!"

Gallery Attendants Put a New Face on The Andy Warhol Museum

By Danielle Scherer

The next time you visit The Andy Warhol Museum, you may notice some new faces around the museum, and we aren’t talking about newly discovered portraits of Mick, Jackie, or Marilyn.

Fourteen Gallery Attendants joined the staff of the museum last November, replacing the familiar Security Guards found at most museums. These vibrant new Gallery Attendants are putting a new "face" on the traditional museum experience for visitors.

Gallery Attendants safeguard the artwork from the hands of too-inquisitive visitors; however, they do much more: they give visitors information about the museum’s galleries and facilities, and act as liaisons to the museum’s curatorial and educational departments. Gallery Attendants are trained in the museum’s history, mission, and permanent collections, and in customer service.

According to Thomas Sokolowski, director of The Andy Warhol Museum, these new-style Gallery Attendants fit perfectly into the museum’s mission. He says, "Our museum is a dynamic, energetic forum for the arts. Visiting here shouldn’t be a passive experience. We want to make it lively and interactive."

Greg Burchard, manager of Visitor Services, says, "The Gallery Attendants are part of The Andy Warhol Museum’s strategy to break down the walls that exist between visitors and art in traditional museum settings." Gallery Attendants are encouraged to engage visitors in discussions and exchanges of opinions and ideas about artwork. "All of the new attendants were selected because they have backgrounds in both the arts and in working with the public, and because they are very approachable and amiable."

They don’t wear uniforms; they dress in casual, street clothing that lets their diverse, distinct personalities—and tattoos—show.

Having assistants in the galleries is part of a trend at museums across the country; however, Burchard says that The Andy Warhol Museum’s Gallery Attendant program is among the first. "Because we are a small and cohesive place, it was much easier for us to put this program into place quickly."

Sokolowski says that arts professionals from other cities who have encountered the museum’s Gallery Attendants are envious. "The director of an East Coast museum told me, ‘I just want to pack them away and steal them for my institution.’ Well, too bad. We got them first!"

The Gallery Attendants are so popular that The Andy Warhol Museum plans to add several more. However, Sokolowski adds, "Tattoos are not a requirement for employment."

-- Danielle Scherer


Meet the Gallery Attendants

CARNEGIE magazine sat down recently with seven of The Andy Warhol Museum’s Gallery Attendants. They talked about their backgrounds and offered some thoughts about Andy Warhol and the museum.

Where do you guys come from?

"I majored in education. I draw and sketch."

"I was a film studies major. I make my own short films."

"I worked at the Impressionist Art Gallery in Memphis."

"I was a visual merchandiser."

"I worked in retail. I’m also a musician."

"I studied the arts. I worked in a tattoo shop."

"I majored in anthropology."

What did you know about Andy Warhol before you came here?

"Soup cans."

"Soup cans."

"Soup cans."

What do you know about him now?

"Now I know how broad his body of work is."

"He was a very eclectic artist who used many different media."

"His work has such variety."

What are some of the most common questions visitors ask?

"Was Andy married?" (No.)

"Did Andy die of AIDS?" (No.)

"Why is The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh?" (Because Warhol was a native of Pittsburgh.)

"Was Candy Darling a man or a woman?" (Man.)

What’s so great about The Andy Warhol Museum?

"It’s a hip museum in a city that has never been considered hip. It enhances our reputation in national and global cultural circles."

"It educates people about the time period and the cultural milieu in which Andy worked."

"It contributes to the acceptance of the gay and lesbian community in Pittsburgh."

"The museum and Andy Warhol’s legacy are catalysts for all kinds of local art—visual, film and video, music, and dance."

"You don’t have to like Warhol’s art, but it’s great to be exposed to it."

Andy Warhol Drawings, 1942-1987

By Jordan Weeks

February 27 –April 30
"He believed that you could only break the rules if you knew what they were."
-- Director Thomas Sokolowski
While Andy Warhol is generally associated with enormous POP art photo-silkscreens, it’s a little-revealed fact that he started out with drawings and remained a facile and studied draftsman throughout his life. He began his professional career as a commercial illustrator, drawing shoes and scarves and the like for magazine ads, and, despite the view, remained committed to the medium throughout his life.

Andy Warhol Drawings, 1942-1987, the first ever exhibition dedicated solely to Warhol’s drawings, arrived at The Warhol Museum on February 27 after a year-and-a-half international tour. Its Pittsburgh appearance is made possible by the Campbell’s
Soup Company, and after it closes here on April 30 it will head for its last venue, The Henry Art Gallery in Seattle, Washington.

A retrospective of sorts, Drawings reveals the role drawing played in Warhol’s life from his earliest drawings from his school days in Pittsburgh (including a self-portrait from when he was 14 years old), to his last drawings in 1987, the year he died, and touches on everything in between.

Some of the work reveals his financial condition as an artist. Earlier drawings are often in pen on inexpensive paper, since he couldn’t yet afford more permanent, better-lasting materials, and others show the commercial art process he had to go through (he kept most of his magazine art director-marked sketches intact). Some drawings simply divulge his current subjects of interest, including his 1986 visit to Japan, and his gold leaf-infused drawings.

Co-organized with former Warhol Museum chief curator Mark Francis and Dieter Koepplin, curator of Drawings from the Offentliche Kunstsammlung at the Kunstmuseum Basel, Switzerland, the Drawings exhibit was made possible in Pittsburgh by the Campbell’s Soup Company.

"Warhol’s drawings show an intimate and private side to his art that has often been obscured by the light of his other, more spectacular activities," says museum director Thomas Sokolowski. "However, Andy Warhol was a fluent draftsman all his life; even though through most of his professional life he utilized silkscreen process, drawings were very much the rudimentary armature of his work. He never stopped drawing," although this closely-maintained tie to a traditional artistic practice has often been overlooked by naysayers who couldn’t get past the spectacle of his larger-than-life POP pieces.

"Very often in Warhol’s life," Sokolowski continues, "there was criticism of him—that he was someone who just worked mechanically, that his work was just assembly-line," but, as is evident in this exhibition, this was clearly not the case. "He learned to draw at Carnegie Mellon University, took very traditional art classes, and what’s interesting is that during the last six, seven years of his life, he was one of the first board members of a place called New York Academy, which was—and is—a very traditional, almost old-fashioned art school in New York City. The Academy trains artists much the same way artists were trained in the sixteenth century: they draw after nudes, they draw after classic casts of marble and classical sculpture, they copy works of art by great masters. Those basic technique and skills are very important. I think a lot of people don’t understand that even though Warhol was very modern and very avant-garde in many ways, he believed that you could only break the rules if you knew what they were."


Back Issues
Copyright (c) 2000 CARNEGIE magazine 
All rights reserved. 
E-mail: carnegiemag@carnegiemuseums.org