Saturday, October 1, 2011

Alex Ross at the Warhol - appreciation for the man, frustration with the exhibit

Today was the big day for Alex Ross's "Heroes & Villains" exhibit at the Andy Warhol Museum on Pittsburgh's North Shore.  I decided on which books I should take and got in the car a little before 12:30, drove through the Fort Pitt tunnels and parked along Sandusky Street, right across the way from the museum.

As I walked through the front doors, I was greeted with a sign that said "'Heroes & Villains' Exhibit open to the public beginning at 8pm" or something to that effect, which was disconcerting.  I entered the main hall and saw a few dozen others lounging around, many holding comics and similar items which made it clear that they were there for the same reason I was.  I made my way to the front desk and asked about the exhibit, at which point I was told that the only people who could see the exhibit before 8:00 in the evening were those who purchased $250 tickets to the private tour.

I found this to go against everything I had seen on the Warhol Museum website and elsewhere in the days leading up to the event, and when I told the woman at the desk this, she wearily turned to a man in the background and said "what are doing about that again?", which led me to believe that others entered with the same understanding I had.  I spoke with another employee and voiced my displeasure at, well, not being allowed in to see the event for which I showed up, but the best answer I got was that I must have mistaken the information on the website or got it from a different, more unreliable source.  Below are screenshots from the site specific to the exhibit:

...and from the page with hours of operation:

So...I'm not sure what I was missing.  But just as the squeaky wheel gets the grease, I apparently pointed out my misgivings long/obstinately enough and scored some free passes for a return trip.  I got the impression that others at the show were similarly placated.

It's nice to know that I'll be seeing the exhibit at a later date for free, but I can't help but wonder why, even if there wasn't a miscommunication, Ross's exhibit wasn't open from the start of the business day.  Ross, as (correctly) advertised, held a book signing in the main lobby at 3:00.  My eyeball estimate of the crowd that showed up for the signing was a couple hundred people, fewer than 20 of whom took the private tour at 1:30.  While a number of the people there (myself included) bought items from the gift shop, I can't help but think that a solid percentage would have also bought a ticket to see the exhibit if given the chance - but as it was, many stood in line, got some signatures and left without paying a dime to the museum.

As it worked out, I waited in line to see Ross from about 1:30 until 3:00, at which time he walked in accompanied by a few guards and some of the museum staff.  The line moved fairly briskly, with some friendly conversation being exchanged between Ross and attendees.  I made it to the front of the line in about 15 minutes, and I had all the drama captured on flim:


There was a two-item limit on signatures, though I cheated a bit and had my wife carry an extra book to get signed.  I eventually decided upon the Mythos hardcover, Earth X #1 and Kingdom Come #1.  Ross was very cordial and seemed (in the 30 seconds I was in front of him) like a nice guy.

Naturally, I brought copies of Teddy and the Yeti #s 1-3 with me and gave them to Ross.  He remarked on the title and then noticed that Phil Hester drew the first cover.  Five minutes afterwards I made the connection, but at the time I only said something stupid like "yep!"  Ross (obviously) worked with Hester on several Dynamite titles like Black Terror, which I thought was the Project Superpowers line's strongest book.  I could have mentioned that Phil was our one degree of comic book separation or asked if that line would eventually continue now that Kirby: Genesis seems to have taken its publication space, but at the time I was just happy that he took the books and seemed to appreciate them.

Here are two of the signatures I got: first on the inner cover/first page of Mythos, then on Earth X:

As I mentioned, I did pick up some swag while there.  The museum store must have stocked up for the exhibit, because they had a number of collections with Ross's work (the cafe had recent issues of books like Invaders: Now to read!) and a lot of comic-themed items in general.  I left with the following:

- A "Heroes & Villains" comic book: this Silver Age sized book isn't really a comic in its usual sense; rather it's a brief history of Ross and some of his influences.  It has the feel of a newsletter but is still pretty cool.
- An Andy Warhol bookmark featuring Ross's painting.  I was handed a few when I got to the table for the signing.
- A Fantastic Four magnet with the cover to issue #49
- Two Fantastic Four stickers, including one of the Thing and his catchphrase.

Overall, I had a nice time.  Obviously, it would have been nice to get to enter the exhibit today, and I'm still a little put off by the lack of clarification on the museum staff's part.  But I still managed to meet one of the most talented and recognizable creators in comics today, and I was able to leave him with some work of my own.  I'll take that for what it's worth and look forward to coming back at some point in the next few weeks.

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