This year has had a few major milestones in art history: the 500th anniversary of the inauguration of the Sistine Chapel, the 150th birthday of Gustav Klimt, and the 50th anniversary of Andy Warhol’s Pop Art exhibition. And in some cases, those works can be found in some unexpected places. Correspondent Elena Strapkova follows the legacy of the pop art icon Andy Warhol’s work that you can experience outside the factory and all around the world.
If you’ve never heard of Medzilaborce, Slovakia, you’re not alone. But surprising to many, both of Warhol’s parents were Slovak (of Rusyn ethnicity) and came to the United States only few years before his birth. Both of his older brothers were, in fact, born in East Slovakia. Medzilaborce is now home to the second-largest collection of Warhol’s works and is the first museum in the world dedicated solely to him, the Andy Warhol Museum of Modern Art. It’s also the only Warhol’s museum in Europe.
Here’s a bit of history: Warhol’s original name was Andrej Warhola. He changed his name in 1949 after graduation from Carnegie Institute of Technology when he moved to New York City. In 1950s he worked as an art editor for Glamour magazine and drew advertisements for Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar etc. He also illustrated books, designed theater sets and around this time dyed his hair silver and started to receive accolades for his work. In 1960 he began to make his first paintings based on comic strips such as Dick Tracy, Popeye, Superman and Coca-Cola bottles and in 1962 he made world-famous paintings of dollar bills and Campbell soup cans. This work was part of the Pop Art exhibition called the New Realists, held at Sidney Janis Gallery in New York. Later that year, Elanor Ward exposed these paintings at Stable Gallery and began a sensation. The rest is history.
According to Michal Bycko, president of the Andy Warhol Society and the main curator of Warhol’s museum in Medzilaborce, Warhol’s main contribution to the art of 20th century is “humanization of banality.” Bycko explains:
Warhol changed the perception in showing us that the art is everywhere around us. He also diminished the difference between the photograph and the painting. His Campbell Soup is one of the three major works that influenced the art of 20th century – the other two are Picasso’s Ladies of Avignon and Duchamp’s Fountain.
The museum in Medzilaborce is located only 15 km from the village Mikova – the birth place of his parents and brothers. It offers an amazing journey for everybody who is fascinated not only by his works but also his extraordinary life. The collection includes a little shirt in which he was baptized, authentic documents from his life, photograph of his mother on which he based famous portrait of her, his camera, sunglasses etc.
In addition to personal history, you’ll find some of famous works from all periods. One of the oldest are two serigraphies of Campbell soup from 1969. You can also admire the collection of Warhol’s Flowers or Red Lenin and portraits of Mick Jagger, Ingrid Bergman or Marilyn Monroe. It sounds unbelievably that all this “treasure” is almost hidden in the small town of 6500 inhabitants on Slovak-Polish border and you can see it all for 3,50 euros.
According to experts studying his work, we still know very little about him. “Since many of his direct associates are dead or don’t want to speak with media, false statement about his past are everywhere. Bycko concludes:
I think it is very important to research the influence of byzantine culture and the creed of Andy Warhol on his work and Pop Art. It is important to look “under the surface” despite Warhol’s controversial statement, that everything that is supposed to be in his pictures, is on their surface and there is nothing inside. Sometimes I have a feeling, that Andy Warhol was as a human conceptual art and his “product” was he himself.