Originally created 08/07/03

If Warhol were alive at 75, he'd likely be on the Internet



PITTSBURGH -- If Andy Warhol were alive to celebrate his 75th birthday, his fans say he would embrace the Internet, cell phones and even reality TV.

While no one will ever know what he would have done with 21st-century technology, they're sure that the Pop Art pioneer wouldn't have stopped experimenting with new mediums.

"He would have loved the Internet for the democratization of art," said Thomas Sokolowski, director of The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. "I know he would have gone into every new technology."

To mark Warhol's birthday - as much as his artistic contributions - Sokolowski's museum is offering free cake and admission for 75 cents on Wednesday. Visitors will be able to view six special exhibitions as part of the "Summer of Andy" event at one of the most comprehensive single-artist museums in the world.

On Saturday and Sunday, visitors will receive $1 off the regular $8 adult admission if they bring a canned good for a food drive.

Born Aug. 6, 1928, Warhol grew up and developed his early artistic skills in Pittsburgh. At the center of the Pop Art movement in the 1960s, he turned the Campbell's soup can and silkscreen portraits of Jacqueline Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe and Mao Zedong into works of art.

He experimented with the camera, using innovative ways to capture the appearance and mood of people such as actor Dennis Hopper and artist Salvador Dali, who sat in for screen tests at his New York studio.

The Museum of Modern Art in New York City is currently showing some of those black-and-white film portraits and the small exhibit continues to attract crowds, said Gary Garrels, curator of painting and sculpture at MoMA.

Warhol's work remains fresh and relevant decades later because the artist was able to put his finger on the pulse of popular culture, Garrels said. And Warhol knew people were fascinated with ordinary people - the same reason reality shows are so popular.

"Warhol was in love with contemporary life, fascinated by the way the world moves forward and obviously obsessed about how we present images of ourselves," Garrels said. "Whether that's in photography or movies or videos and any kind of media. And he was interested in the ways different media affected our perception of those things."

Warhol understood the art of spinning stories and how Americans were developing an appetite for sound bites and packaging, strategies since perfected by broadcasters from MTV to NBC, Sokolowski said. While Warhol didn't come up with the Q&A format, he showed off his innovation by having celebrities interview celebrities to help sell his Interview magazine.

"He understood if you got a well-known person to interview another hip person, people will love it," Sokolowski said.

Warhol died in 1987 at the age of 58 following complications from gall bladder surgery. Today, he continues to transcend hipness and youth, though he always felt like an ugly duckling.

"His family called him Andy, the red-nosed Warhola," Sokolowski said.

On the Net:

The Andy Warhol Museum, http://www.warhol.org/

Museum of Modern Art, http://www.moma.org/