The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston is asking for financial support to transport a piece of New York art history to Space City.
Equipped with a video camera and an online crowd-funding account, CAMH director Bill Arning has mounted a campaign to collect the $32,000 needed to cover the costs of bringing a chromed-out statue of Andy Warhol to the corner of Bissonett and Montrose in late September.
Designed by artist Rob Pruitt — not to be confused with Robert A. Pruitt of Houston art collective Otabenga Jones — The Andy Monument was commissioned by New York's Public Art Fund to commemorate Warhol's contribution to the city's dynamic downtown cultural scene from the 1960s through the '80s.
"When I was growing up in New York, Andy sightings were a lways very exciting so this is sort of a special project for me," CAMH director Bill Arning tells CultureMap.
Unveiled in March 2011, the life-sized silver-colored statue was placed at the northwest corner of Union Square just feet away from the final incarnation of Warhol's Factory studio, which the pop artist used from 1973 until his sudden death in 1987.
"When I was growing up in New York, Andy sightings were always very exciting so this is sort of a special project for me," Bill Arning tells CultureMap. "I went to high school just around the corner from Union Square. We'd always go over during our lunch break and wait for him to come out of the building. It's funny how it was sort of no big deal at the time."
Arning remembers a chance encounter with Warhol in the late '70s or early '80s.
"I used to be friends with Lance Loud from the An American Family documentary on PBS. He was playing with the Mumps at CBGB and called me up, saying Andy was going to be there to hear them. I actually got a chance to meet him and shake his hand. It was amazing. He was just like I'd seen him on TV, very shy and mumbly, but funny and nice."
And now the museum director will have a chance to meet the pop icon once again … but of course there's the matter of the bill.
While the CAMH maintains a large and loyal following for its exhibits and parties, temporary art work for the museum's front lawn is a new initiative and has yet to make its way into the institutional budget.
In light-hearted campaign video, Arning makes his case for The Andy Monument, explaining how the piece became a beloved beacon of public art and how he hopes to recreate that same enthusiasm Warhol fans in Houston.
"In New York City in Union Square, people used it as a landmark — 'Meet me by the Andy'," he laughs. "People started bringing flowers and little cans of Campbell's soup in tribute. The last time I was there, someone had given Andy a falafel, just in case he got hungry."