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He converged four portraits of Marilyn Monroe into one painting, immortalized a can of ready-made soup on canvas, and famously said, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” But the fame of Andy Warhol has far surpassed 15 minutes and goes well beyond international borders. Apart from the Andy Warhol Museum in his native Pittsburgh, in the USA, there is a second museum solely dedicated to the creative genius: The Andy Warhol Museum of Modern Art in Medzilaborce, Slovakia.
From Medzialiborce to Pittsburgh and back again
The artist was born in 1928 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as the fourth child of an immigrant family. His parents were Lemkos, belonging to the highlander ethnic group living in the area of Austria-Hungary, currently on the tripoint of Poland, Slovakia, and Ukraine. Their village, then Mikó, and now Miková in northeastern Slovakia, is proud to hold claim to the great artist’s heritage. This pride extends to the nearby town of Medzilaborce, where, in 1991, the Andy Warhol Museum of Modern Art opened.
It arose from the initiative of the Warhols and Michal Bycko, who achieved the establishment of a museum by the Slovak Ministry of Culture and is the second largest place where the artist’s works are located. Its permanent exhibition includes 160 works by Andy Warhol and his memorabilia. The collection also features works by Andy’s brother, Paul, as well as Paul’s son, James, a renowned children’s illustrator.
Eastern Bloc avant-garde
The effort to create such a museum in the birthplace of Warhol’s Parents was made before the collapse of the Eastern Bloc. But it took the decline of the Soviet empire to enable Michal Bycka – a Warhol enthusiast and biographer, pedagogue, and art theorist – to present the artist’s art in Medzilaborce. His first exhibition – before the Andy Warhol Museum of Modern Art was formed – opened on a special day: 16 November 1989, precisely the eve of the Velvet Revolution. The very next day, the protests sparked, and soon, the process of democratization in Czechoslovakia began.
Medzilaborce often hosted Andy’s other brother, John Warhol, who helped establish the museum and loan or acquire the collection. The artist himself, who died in 1987, never visited his parents’ country of origin. His larger-than-life persona is present in the city as a statue in front of the Andy Warhol Museum of Modern Art.