andy warhol and slovakia
This week marked the 25th anniversary of the passing of Andy Warhol. Fitting it is that I should blog today about this pop artist who coined the phrase ‘In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes’, on a day that the American motion-picture community and much of the world honours some who may just be experiencing their 15 minutes of fame at the Academy Awards ceremony.
And although world-famous himself, few know that Warhol came from humble stock, from a beautiful yet down-trodden area of north-eastern Slovakia – an area that is home to the only museum in the world dedicated to the artistry of Andy Warhol.
Warhol’s parents were of Carpatho-Rusyn heritage, as were my paternal grandparents. (His family name was originally Warhola.) So when last visiting my grandparents’ village with my own parents and with a shared interest in art and design, my father suggested we visit the Warhol Family Museum of Modern Art in Medzilaborce. And yes, my reaction of surprise despite knowing of his Slovak heritage was ‘there’s a Warhol museum in eastern Slovakia?’.
The museum was founded in 1991 not far from the birthplace of Warhol’s mother Julia, by Michal Bycko, a high school art teacher, along with Andy’s brother John Warhola, and the Warhol Foundation in New York, with the intent of profiling another side of superstar Andy Warhol, highlighting his accomplishments from his roots in Ruthenia.
Although the museum has prominence in the town, with its bright colours contrasting the traditional Byzantine church across the street and the whimsical, sculptural, fountain of Warhol out front, upon entry it’s almost astonishing that these amazing works exist in an unpretentious and simple Communist remnant such as this, with the pop-culture works contrasting rustic Medzilaborce. The museum houses 160 Warhol works of art, mostly drawings and silkscreens, including serial portraits of Marilyn Monroe. Warhol’s snake skin jacket, Brooks Bros. ties, sunglasses, Walkman, and camera are also on display.
Despite its relatively remote location, if one is a fan of Warhol’s works and finds oneself on an off-the-beaten-tourist-path sort of vacation in eastern Europe, the region and the museum are worth a visit.