Andy Warhol Museum Opens Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The first museum entirely devoted to an American artist of the post-World War II generation, the Andy Warhol Museum in Warhol’s hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, honors an unlikely “favorite son,” an enigmatic man who disguised his background while exerting a tremendous influence on the acceptance of consumer mass culture and celebrity formation as the popular arts of late twentieth century America.

Summary of Event

Before Andy Warhol’s shocking and unexpected death in 1987 (from an apparent cardiac arrest triggered by an allergic reaction to penicillin administered after successful gall bladder surgery), the celebrated artist and self-promoter had discussed the possibility of a single-artist museum with Heiner Friedrich and Philippa de Menil, who were early and consistent supporters of Warhol. The couple had founded the Dia Art Centers and Dia Art Foundation and were committed to long-term installations of contemporary art. At the time of Warhol’s death, Dia owned nearly two hundred of the artist’s pieces; this collection would become a core ingredient in the formation of the museum project. Museums Art;museums Andy Warhol Museum [kw]Andy Warhol Museum Opens (May 15, 1994) [kw]Warhol Museum Opens, Andy (May 15, 1994) [kw]Museum Opens, Andy Warhol (May 15, 1994) Museums Art;museums Andy Warhol Museum [g]North America;May 15, 1994: Andy Warhol Museum Opens[08880] [g]United States;May 15, 1994: Andy Warhol Museum Opens[08880] [c]Arts;May 15, 1994: Andy Warhol Museum Opens[08880] [c]Architecture;May 15, 1994: Andy Warhol Museum Opens[08880] [c]Organizations and institutions;May 15, 1994: Andy Warhol Museum Opens[08880] Warhol, Andy Gluckman, Richard Friedrich, Heiner Hughes, Frederick W. Gillies, Archibald L. Heinz, H. John, III

After Warhol’s death, his vast private holdings became a matter of speculation, gossip, and litigation. Most of the twenty-seven rooms of his Manhattan townhouse were stuffed with items that ranged from rare antiques to worthless paper products. After months of assessment, Sotheby’s auction house issued a six-volume auction catalog; contents were sold over a ten-day period in April, 1988. The estate sale realized $25.3 million, funds that, according to Warhol’s wishes, were allocated to the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Of even more significance, the foundation acquired Warhol’s massive personal collection of his work. Together with the Dia collection, the foundation holdings comprised a range and depth of art work more than sufficient for a museum.

Construction of the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was immediately welcomed by the president of the Carnegie Institute, Robert C. Wilburn, Wilburn, Robert C. who saw the project as an opportunity to boost the cultural environment of the region while celebrating a native son (albeit one who misrepresented his past and gave conflicting answers to questions about his birthplace). Wilburn remained a steadfast supporter of the museum and, throughout years of negotiations and setbacks, the stability and reputation of the Carnegie Institute made all the difference. In contrast to the institute, the Warhol Foundation suffered from internal disputes between Warhol’s friend, business manager, and executor Frederick W. Hughes and Archibald L. Gillies, who replaced Hughes in directing the foundation. The acrimonious relationship between the two men almost brought the museum project to a halt.

Crucial support came from Senator H. John Heinz III, an influential figure in Pittsburgh and throughout the state of Pennsylvania. The popular philanthropist volunteered as fund-raising chair in 1990, pledging five million dollars from his private foundations at a key moment. Heinz died in a plane crash in 1991, but his widow, Teresa Heinz, herself a supporter of the project, made good on his pledge. The Warhol project was promoted to state officials not so much as an artistic endeavor as an economic opportunity in the form of a tourist site that would attract an international audience. In the final hour, during the summer of 1992, the project received six million dollars from the state of Pennsylvania, an unprecedented amount of public funding for a single-artist museum in the United States.

Early on, the principals agreed that the museum should be housed in a historical building with industrial connections. After extensive negotiations, a warehouse built between 1911 and 1922 in the Beaux-Arts style, on the North Side across the bridge from downtown Pittsburgh, was purchased. First known as the Frick and Lindsay Building and then the Volkwein Building, the structure was large, sturdily constructed, and well located, with handsome glazed terra-cotta facades—a perfect environment to house the work of a postindustrial artist who had labeled his own studio “the factory.”

Distinguished New York architect Richard Gluckman, who specialized in designing spaces for art display and art-related activities, was selected as project designer. Architecture;Andy Warhol Museum He transformed the central building and designed a three-level, 15,000-square-foot addition at the rear to replace a deteriorating wooden add-on. Floors were partially removed on the fifth level to introduce double-height spaces; thus, the building is variously described as seven or eight floors. Gluckman’s innovative design respects the character of the original building while introducing a sophisticated, decidedly contemporary interior. Originally thought to be too large for the Warhol project alone, the building, as renovated, measures 88,000 square feet, with 35,000 square feet devoted to exhibition space, 10,000 for archives and collection storage, and the remainder for an archival study center, administrative offices, a store, a café, and a 110-seat theater. It barely accommodates the extraordinarily large collection of 900 paintings, 1,500 drawings, prints of all Warhol’s films, and hundreds of photographs and Polaroids.

The results of Warhol’s insatiable desire to collect became the foundation for the museum’s research center. Included are 42 volumes of his scrapbooks, an entire run of Interview magazine, Andy Warhol Enterprises business records, 12,000 acetates, assorted art supplies, an original set of silkscreens, his posters, more than 600 of his “Time Capsule” boxes, more than 10,000 hours of Warhol audio- and videotapes, and numerous personal effects. An oral history project with interviews of Warhol’s associates and friends was later launched.

On Friday, May 13, 1994, speeches and congratulations were delivered to eleven hundred guests at a black-tie dinner held in a tent erected outside the museum. At midnight the following evening, fireworks over the Allegheny River announced the opening of the Andy Warhol Museum to the general public. Warhol self-portraits (in various media) filled the large open lobby, and the five exhibition floors documented the stages of Warhol’s career chronologically. Twenty-two thousand spectators visited the museum in the first twenty-four hours after its opening.


The creation of the Andy Warhol Museum cemented Warhol’s reputation as a significant artist and influential force in contemporary popular culture. Simultaneously, the location and successful renovation of the museum site contributed to a recent international trend of displaying contemporary artwork in spaces originally used for industrial purposes. The Warhol Museum is the largest single-artist museum in the United States and contains the most comprehensive archives of a single artist ever assembled worldwide. Warhol’s obsessive collecting of all types of materials, from the most valuable to the most banal, resulted in the creation of a remarkable record of his life and work and also a dense and substantive archive that demonstrates how high and popular culture intersected in mid- to late twentieth century America, especially in the vortex of Manhattan from the 1950’s through the 1980’s. Museums Art;museums Andy Warhol Museum

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Alexander, Paul. Death and Disaster: The Rise of the Warhol Empire and the Race for Andy’s Millions. New York: Random House, 1994. Journalist’s account of the controversies and trials surrounding Warhol’s death and the management of his estate.
  • citation-type="booksimple"


    The Andy Warhol Museum. Pittsburgh: Carnegie Museum of Art, 1994. Essential collection of informative essays, an illustrated Warhol biography, photographs, plates, and comments by the museum’s architect (Richard Gluckman), director (Tom Armstrong), and curator (Mark Francis). Accompanying compact disc, written and produced by Steve Roland, contains seventeen audio segments of Warhol at work and play.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Bockris, Victor. Warhol: The Biography. Cambridge, Mass.: Da Capo Press, 2003. Expanded edition of a 1989 work originally titled The Life and Death of Andy Warhol.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Cresap, Kelly M. Pop Trickster Fool: Warhol Performs Naivete. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2004. Analyzes Warhol as performance artist.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Goldsmith, Kenneth, ed. I’ll Be Your Mirror: The Selected Andy Warhol Interviews. New York: Carroll & Graf, 2004. Thirty-seven conversations with the evasive artist conducted between 1962 and 1987.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Hackett, Pat, ed. The Andy Warhol Diaries. New York: Warner Books, 1989. Edited from twenty thousand pages, this 807-page volume contains distilled entries dictated by Warhol by telephone to Hackett from fall, 1976, until several days before his death. Hackett coauthored The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again) (1975, uncredited) and POPism: The Warhol Sixties (1980) with Warhol.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Herbenick, Raymond M. Andy Warhol’s Religious and Ethnic Roots. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1997. Argues that Warhol’s Carpatho-Rusyn ethnicity and his upbringing in the Byzantine-Ruthenian Rite Catholic Church greatly influenced his art and life.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">McShine, Kynaston, ed. Andy Warhol: A Retrospective. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1989. Compendium of critical essays, interviews, chronology, bibliography, and hundreds of plates, published in connection with the first full-scale retrospective of Warhol’s career.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Malanga, Gerard. Archiving Warhol. New York: Creation Books, 2002. Collection of essays, interviews, and photographs by Warhol’s chief assistant from 1963 to 1970, who considers Warhol “an intellectual painter in spite of himself.”

Dalí Museum Opens in Spain

Schnabel Emerges as a Celebrity Artist

Christo Wraps the Pont Neuf

National Museum of Women in the Arts Opens Amid Controversy

Van Gogh’s Irises Sells for $53.9 Million

Mapplethorpe’s Photographs Provoke Controversy

Alexander Fights to Save the National Endowment for the Arts

Categories: History