I’m glad that Tom Sokolowski is stepping down. Fifteen years is too long for anyone to be running a museum dedicated to Andy Warhol. I can’t deny that he has done well. During his tenure, The Warhol has produced some of the boldest exhibitions in the region. In taking on sensitive topics, Mr. Sokolowski has stuck to his vision. In a lot of ways, The Warhol is Pittsburgh’s Museum of Contemporary Art. It brings in some great traveling shows and presents edgy thematic exhibitions. Its offerings are extensive and change enough to keep the place interesting.
Mr. Sokolowski’s comments on Pittsburgh Public Art (this week in the Pittsburgh City Paper) are pretty funny. (and a good indicator that his departure is long overdue) He dismisses all public art except for a project that he helped to select. Where has he been for the past fifteen years? (either out-of-town or hiding in his museum!) What about all of the Sprout murals that have appeared throughout the city? There are definitely some good ones! What about all of the grassroots projects that pop up (sometimes temporarily) in alternative spaces? Sure, there are some awful pieces of public art in Pittsburgh. I think that Mr. Sokolowski’s favorite, Arch by Glenn Kaino, is one of the worst pieces of public art that I have ever seen. The piece is cheaply made, (it already seems to be falling apart) poorly situated (at the edge of a parking lot it looks like a commercial advertisement for the nearby Goodyear store) and it lacks any sense of complexity in drawing inspiration from the nearby bridges. It looks tacky and kitsch next to Downtown Pittsburgh. (like an urban yard gnome) Mr. Sokolowski has had some good ideas, but I wonder if those blue glasses still work?
I met Mr. Sokolowski once. Oddly, it was at the dedication for R.M. Fischer’s Langley Observatory Clock, a public art piece located next to the Carnegie Science Center. (a piece that I like) While in New York I spotting him during the week of the . I asked him if he saw anything good. “I’ve seen a lot of crap,” he responded. I guess that pretty much sums up his life.
I think The Warhol is going to be fine. I hope Mr. Sokolowski finds a happy place. I’ll excuse his remarks about Pittsburgh. I may not agree with his comments, but I admire the fact that he made his opinion known. Hopefully Pittsburghers will take his words as a challenge.