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Ackland Art Museum capitalizes on Warhol

Lena Wegner (right) examines the Andy Warhol photo exhibit at the Ackland Art Museum with Lisa Voss (left) on Thursday night.
Lena Wegner (right) examines the Andy Warhol photo exhibit at the Ackland Art Museum with Lisa Voss (left) on Thursday night.

Andy Warhol is one of the twentieth-century’s best known pop artists — and the Ackland Art Museum is hoping to use his big name to full effect.

With parties, film showings and an elaborate gala fundraising event in the works, Warhol serves as a means to make the Ackland more of a social center, not just a gallery.

“Museums can be intimidating,” said Eva-michelle Greene, Student Friends of the Ackland president.

“It’s our job to knock down that wall.”

To celebrate “Big Shots” — one of three new exhibits on portraiture at the Ackland Art Museum — the Student Friends of the Ackland organized a party in his spirit Thursday, which served as the group’s big annual event.

“We really want to extend the show outside the walls of the museum,” Ackland Art Museum Director of Communications Emily Bowles said.

With Chapel Hill band Tripp performing in the background, party goers had a chance to view the exhibits in a more casual setting.

Student Friends of the Ackland normally hosts one large party each year at the museum.

Museum officials said they hope to use the excitement behind the Warhol collection to draw a new crowd and raise money more casually.

The Varsity Theatre on Franklin St. will hold a film series, dubbed “ArtNow/CinemaNow,” to include two of Warhol’s films — “Chelsea Girls” and “Empire” — as well as two others, “Midnight Cowboys” and “Basquiat.”

Bowles said these films capture the essence of Warhol’s scene.

As a part of the regular Art and Literature in the Galleries series, discussions will revolve around books relevant to the exhibits.

With its planned Warhol Silver Factory Gala the Ackland will take a more hands-on approach in co-opting the lingering cultural myth that is Warhol.

The benefit gala is the first of its kind for the museum, Ackland events coordinator Allison Portnow said.

“We’ve never had this type of non-black tie gala,” Portnow said. “We’re hoping to make it a yearly thing.”

And with drag queens, artists and live music from local favorites The Love Language and The Shakedown, the event promises to be something entirely different, Bowles said.

The gala is a recreation of a legendary Warhol party during his heyday in the 1970s.

Starting with a dinner in the galleries, the benefit moves to Franklin St. bar Top of the Hill before finishing up with an after-party back at the museum.

With tickets ranging from $50 to $500 — and almost all of the $500 tickets already sold — the gala will have a promising turn-out, Bowles said.

“It won’t be something you can just show up to ­­— or even buy tickets for — that night.”

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