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Emily Hungerman March 26, 2007 ART H 409 Museum Visit Critique Andy Warhol Museum Visiting the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh provides visitors with an interesting art museum experience from the first introduction and orientation of the space, to the use of signage, and the layout and display in the museum. Through the work of one artist, Andy Warhol, contemporary art and pop culture art issues are examined. An introduction to the work of Warhol is first evident on the walls of the public parking garage before approaching the building on the North Side of Pittsburgh. Two vertical banners identify the corner of the building near the entrance. Before entering the lobby visitors go up a ramped entrance and see an arrowed sign that indicates left towards the admissions table and right to the museum store and café. Straight ahead through the glass doors is a huge square black and blue self portrait of Andy Warhol that identifies the space through his image. The atmosphere and contemporary urban feel of the museum is evident immediately in the lobby with a high ceiling, open space, warehouse industrial look. The lobby invites visitors in with two long rows of couches and metal coffee tables that seem to point to the self portrait of Warhol. Music is in the background and a table with a leather bound book for visitor’s comments is behind one of the couches. On the left and right are walls are groupings of Warhol’s portraits of other pop icons of his time. Labels and a didactic panel identify these pieces in the lobby. 2 The admissions table is small and to the left. There are no maps to navigate the space but the staff suggests going up the elevator and starting on the sixth floor. The sixth floor gallery space is devoted to special exhibitions, which at this time is centered around the theme of global warming. The staff tells the visitors that all the other five floors are all Warhol’s work. There is no formal list of exhibitions for the whole museum or for each floor, but huge didactic panels explain the theme for the floor. The size of the didactic panels is big and in proportion to the height and size of the spaces. A sign by the admissions desk tells the visitor that podcasts are available. I noticed this sign at the end of the visit and asked about the podcasts and was told that at this time they have information about four pieces of art in the museum and it has a recoding of Warhol’s mother. They are in the process of developing more on podcasts. On the first floor is a theater where Warhol’s films are shown. Other galleries in the museum have film projected on the wall, audio recordings on headphones and telephone, and other interactive information on computers. At the admissions desk is written information in a newspaper format about the special exhibition on global warming and one about the live performance series. To the left is a little room that is kind of hidden that has a coat room, panels on the wall explaining general information about the museum, and a display with a many brochures for various other museums. Since the Warhol is one of the four Carnegie Museums in Pittsburgh, there is information about all of them. I think they have tried to make this necessary part of the museum fit in but not be too prominent. Through out the museum there is a large amount and different types of signage. I think there is enough information for the visitor to identity and explain to the degree that 3 different people would want. There is tombstone information about each piece and some offer more contextual information about an individual work or theme of a grouping or theme of a floor. The language is appropriate for a wide audience with thought provoking contextual information in more depth for those that want more incite. Many spaces also have shadow box tables that include original artifacts that were Warhol’s inspiration for his work that explain in addition to signage. There are quotes from critics and people that he painted or from Warhol on other gallery walls. Although there are no signs to navigate throughout the museum, it doesn’t matter. There is no exact order necessary. The instruction by the staff at the beginning and the simple label of each floor in the elevator is enough. A general theme for each floor could be helpful at the start but once on the floor the didactic panels and signage provide enough information to know the theme and specific details about individual works. The layout and display of the objects is grouped in a way that the themes are clear and in a pedagogically appropriate way for each floor and for groupings. It is clear how and why things are grouped in different galleries on each floor because of how they relate. The didactic panels make the theme even more evident. Objects and memorabilia are grouped in shadow boxes on walls according to different themes. Shadow box tables have artifacts such as sketches, photographs, and newspaper clippings that make other grouping and invite visual comparison to the items in the boxes and to the finished pieces in the galleries. Another example relates the current special exhibition on global warming concerns of today with the work of Warhol. His work concerning issues of endangered animals, or other disasters like volcanic eruptions and earthquakes is grouped and related to the contemporary problems and art of today. 4 The layout of the general gallery spaces and museum as a whole is lit appropriately and has an openness with a lot of space and a loft, industrial, feel. Nothing is obtrusive for the visitor in experiencing the work and the museum itself. Warhol’s studio space in New York was known as the Factory and I think that this space tries to recreate that feel. Even the staff has the same cool, artsy, urban look that fits the image of Warhol and the museum itself. In this space and through the work of Andy Warhol visitors can appreciate his work and the importance of pop culture to him then and the significance of visual culture to people today. His ideas and social commentary live on in the gallery spaces and the museum exhibits new exhibitions, performances, and invites interactions to continue his work.
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