Los Angeles Museum, Galleries Celebrate Pop Icon Andy Warhol. (News)

Article excerpt

LOS ANGELES--The local newspaper's headline says it all: "Pop Till You Drop."

L.A. is a'Pop about Andy Warhol. His visage stares down from banners all over town. Throngs of Warhol fans are crowding into museum and commercial galleries filled with his works. And the daily papers wrote about the Pop Art icon, well, daily, throughout the month of May.

The much-anticipated "Andy Warhol Retrospective," which opened May 25 at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles, is expected to draw between 100,000 and 150,000 visitors by the time it wraps on Aug. 18. But before the exhibition even opened, the City of Los Angeles (which also shelled out $250,000 to bring this exhibit to its only U.S. venue) hosted a ceremony honoring the Andy Warhol Foundation's new director, Joel Wachs, a former L.A. city councilman.

Later that evening, more than 1,000 glitz-and-glam celebrators gathered for a reception that was more like a Hollywood movie premiere than a staid art event, with paparazzi and celebrities in attendance along with performance artists, go-go dancers and waiters costumed in white Warhol wigs.

On opening day, the museum hosted 4,000 visitors--the largest single day for the museum since it opened in 1986. The numbers bode well for the projected economic impact the Warhol Retrospective is hoped to have on a city still struggling with a travel and tourism decline.

Jack Kyser, chief economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, is estimating the Warhol exhibit will add $130 million to the Los Angeles economy, slightly exceeding the $122 million generated by the popular Van Gogh exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1999. The Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau partnered with 10 local hotels and American Express to promote a Warhol vacation package. Robert Barrett, the bureau's director of cultural tourism, said he hopes the Warhol exhibition will have the same kind of draw as the extraordinarily successful Van Gogh exhibition did. "My benchmark is to achieve 20,000 [hotel] room nights directly attributable to the Warhol exhibit," he said.

Barrett's optimism is probably not misplaced. Warhol was not only an icon of popular culture, he was also one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. "Andy Warhol shaped the art and culture of our time," said Jeremy Strick, MOCA's director.

This retrospective exhibit spans Warhol's entire career and features the full range of media he explored. More than 250 paintings, drawings and sculptures by Warhol entirely fill MOCA's Grand Avenue facility. The exhibition also includes rare examples of Warhol's early drawings dating back to the 1940s, as well as the first groundbreaking hand-painted, black-and-white works depicting common objects of the early 1960s and the "Most Wanted Men. …