Paul Warhola, Andy Warhol’s older brother, died last month at age 91.
On Pennsylvania Avenue in Pittsburgh, painted on the side of a garage-like building of buff-colored brick, are the words: “PAUL WARHOLA – WE BUY SCRAP METAL.”
That a hometown junk dealer and a world-famous artist were brothers says a lot about the city of their birth, which a recent book calls “the Paris of Appalachia.” Soaking up immigrant labor and smoking up a picturesque landscape of rivers and hills, Pittsburgh’s industries made fortunes for Carnegie, Mellon, Frick, Phipps and Heinz, who became the city’s cultural benefactors.
Carnegie – Pittsburgh’s other Andy – launched an international art exhibition in 1896 (see article on page 28) and founded the Carnegie Technical Schools a few years later. The schools evolved into the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now part of Carnegie Mellon University), where a coal miner’s son, Andy Warhol, studied commercial art.
In 1949, this shy, church-going gay man with prematurely white hair moved to Manhattan. (His widowed mother joined him and stayed for two eye-opening decades.) Shoe ads and record album covers somehow led to paintings of Campbell’s soup cans, vivid silkscreened portraits of Marilyn and Jackie and an approach to art far ahead of its time.
The Warhol Museum – seven floors of paintings, ephemera, movies and taxidermy, entered through a hallway of cowhead wallpaper – opened 20 years ago on the north side of the Allegheny River. The largest single-artist museum in the country, it symbolizes the city’s pride in its contemporary art scene.
“Over the past 20 years, Pittsburgh has purposefully replaced its industrial smog with creativity in the form of world-class museums and festivals, coupled with neighborhoods infused with the arts,” explains Mitch Swain, CEO of the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council.
The downtown cultural district’s 14 square blocks are home to seven theaters, including the Pittsburgh Symphony’s Heinz Hall, and a dozen galleries, notably Wood Street Galleries and SPACE. The Agnes R. Katz Plaza, located at 7th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, is nicknamed “Eyeball Park” for the three pairs of eye-shaped granite benches by sculptor Louise Bourgeois, who also designed a mini-mountain of a fountain.
In a once abandoned Sterns & Foster warehouse on the city’s Northside (not far from the Warhol Museum and the National Aviary) is the Mattress Factory, dedicated to installation art. Three light installations by James Turrell, who has been carving out an Arizona crater for more than 30 years, are encountered in disorientingly dark galleries. On another floor of the main building are two pop-inspired walk-ins by Yayoi Kusama, titled, “Infinity Dots Mirrored Room” and “Repetitive Vision.”
Across town at the Frick Art & Historical Center is “An American Odyssey: The Warner Collection of American Painting,” with works by Gilbert Stuart, Mary Cassatt, Childe Hassam and others. It’s on view from March 1 through May 25.
Two hotels provide glimpses into Pittsburgh’s Gilded Age: The Inn on the Mexican War Streets, built in 1888 for department store baron Russell H. Boggs; and the Mansions on Fifth, built in 1906 for Frick’s lawyer, Willis McCook. The Mansions on Fifth is a Historic Hotel of America, as is the landmark Omni William Penn downtown, built in 1916.
Near the Warhol Museum is the Priory Hotel, originally a Benedictine monastery. The city’s newest luxury hotel is the Fairmont Pittsburgh, which opened in 2010 in the Three PNC Plaza office building.
Several resorts and inns are located near Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob, the two former residences designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in the Laurel Highlands, about 90 minutes southeast of Pittsburgh.
Fallingwater is open for tours on March 1 to 2 and March 8 to 9, then daily, except Wednesdays starting March 15.