Slovakia’s self-styled 'Warhol City'
Exhibitions at the Andy Warhol Museum of Modern Art in Medzilaborce, Slovakia. (Andywarhol.sk)
Where best to remember the work of Andy Warhol, who died 25 years ago this February? Forget New York – get on the next plane to Slovakia.
Andy Warhol once claimed that he "came from nowhere". And Medzilaborce – Slovakia’s self-styled "Warhol City" – is slap-bang in the middle of nowhere. An eight-hour train ride east of Bratislava, this town near the Polish border is the unlikely home of the world’s second-largest collection of Warhol’s art.
In a region better known for its wooden churches and WWII history, it’s a little surreal to find two huge, concrete Campbell’s Soup cans outside a Communist-era cultural centre on Medzilaborce’s main street. Cashing in on its claim to fame – Warhol’s parents emigrated to the US from the nearby village of Miková – the town’s Warhol makeover has, in the last few years, added a statue of the artist and a soup can-styled bus shelter.
When I visited the Andy Warhol Museum of Modern Art, I was greeted as the gallery’s first foreign visitor that year and shown around by the director himself. As in many provincial museums of eastern Europe, cloth overshoes are compulsory. Gliding around the polished parquet like an ice skater, I admired original Warhol works including the Communist themed Red Lenin and Hammer & Sickle, plus Campbell’s Soup II, portraits of Marilyn Monroe and Mick Jagger and self portraits.
Yet just as intriguing were the family photographs and personal possessions – his snakeskin jacket, his first camera, a pair of sunglasses, a christening robe – displayed in glass cases like holy relics in a chapel. Warhol, whose work is said to have been partly inspired by religious icons, would surely have approved.
Neil Wilson has co-authored the Lonely Planet Czech and Slovak Republics guidebook. He lives in Scotland.
This article was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Magazine.