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Warhol Friend, Scholar Named To Head New Museum

January 8, 1993

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ A director has been named to head the planned museum devoted exclusively to pop artist Andy Warhol’s work.

Thomas N. Armstrong III will begin work in April, a year before the Andy Warhol Museum’s scheduled opening. He will oversee the organization of the huge collection of Warhol’s work.

The familiar silk-screened portraits of celebrities will be there, as will the repetitive images of the everyday objects - soup cans and soda bottles among them - that Warhol turned into art to the puzzlement of many.

″You have to realize that Americans are a little slow to accept that fact that in the moments we’re talking about there was an obsession with the things Andy portrayed visually,″ Armstrong said. ″Stardom, show business, idol worship, sex, food - just basic things were a public obsession.

″He created sort of icons which monumentalized this aspect of culture which people weren’t willing to accept was so much a part of their lives,″ Armstrong said Thursday in a telephone interview from New York.

He said the museum will offer visitors and scholars more than the paintings that brought the Pittsburgh native world renown.

″I think the long-term vision is certainly primarily an understanding of Warhol’s work, but beyond that it becomes sort of an essential study of the period in which he worked - the ’60s, ‘70s and ’80s,″ he said.

″This country was under dynamic shifts in that period and this is an artist who reflected that in his work,″ he said. ″We hope this museum will be a primary center for research in the cultural history of that moment.″

Armstrong, 60, was director of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York from 1974 to 1990. He knew Warhol in New York, where the artist died in 1987 at age 58.

Carnegie Museum of Art Director Phillip M. Johnston announced Armstrong’s appointment Wednesday and said Mark Francis, named as director and curator in 1989, would serve only as curator. The growth of the Warhol project made it necessary to divide the tasks, said Johnston.

Among the immediate responsibilities Armstrong will assume is fund raising. The Warhol Museum is trying to raise $35 million to provide an endowment for its operations. So far, about $15 million has been raised, the Carnegie said.

The museum, a joint project of the Carnegie Institute, Dia Center for the Arts and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, will be housed in an 80,000-square-foot building under renovation on the North Side.

It will contain about 1,000 paintings, 100 sculptures, all of Warhol’s films, as well as his papers and source materials.

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