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Searching for Andy Warhol in the streets of Košice

on August 6, 2014

Mobile and Devices

I had booked a trip to Košice, Slovakia’s second largest city, for last weekend. Having booked the trip I discovered, to my delight, that there was to be an event celebrating the work of Andy Warhol, one of my favourite artists, and the most famous Slovakian artist, even though he was actually born in the USA. There was a limited amount of information on the Visit Košice website, but it appeared that something was planned. It was described as follows:

1 AUGUST 2014 / Andy Warhol’s birthday celebration in a big style
August in Kosice equals Andy Warhol’s birthday celebration in a big style. There is a grand “pop-art” party organised by art lovers and supplemented by the parade of Warhol’s twins accompanied by the music of 70s and 80s. A mobile gallery of Warhol’s art is an inseparable part of the event. The highlight of the night is a projection of his works on the buildings’ facades. The Mihal Gallery is opened too where the private collection of Warhol’s works is exhibited. Restaurants offer Andy´s menu and drinks.

It sounded like fun – a great way to spend my first evening in the city. The video of a previous events looked good…

Further Googling revealed that there is also a hotel in Košice which is home to the Mihal Gallery, owners of a collection of Andy Warhol works. It was a little too pricey for me to stay in, but visitors to the city could, apparently, make an appointment to see the collection. This also sounded like good news. As I don’t speak Slovak I decided that phoning them would not be a good option, but they had a contact form on their website, so I sent them an email asking if it would be possible to see the collection. Then I waited. And waited. And got no response. So I figured that they weren’t being rude and/or ignoring me, that they must be involved in the preparations for this exciting event described above, which was obviously going to be worth the wait.

So on Friday I got the train and endured the long, long (five and a half hours) train journey across Slovakia, looking forward to the evening ahead. Being hopeless at following directions I got lost soon after arriving in the city, but managed to find a tourist information office where I got a free map to help me find my hotel. While I was there I asked for some details of the Warhol event – what would be happening, and where? The very helpful girl I dealt with didn’t have any information to hand, but she did an internet search. Unfortunately she was unable to find any details of what would be happening, but she was sure something would be happening, on either Friday or Saturday night, in the area of St Urban’s tower. I thought it was a bit weird that there was no information available about something advertised on the town’s tourism website, but then this is Slovakia, where the information you need can be hard to find, so I thought no more about it, and went off to locate my hotel and explore the city. As I did so, I noticed some people loading sound equipment onto an open-air stage, and figured that this would be where the “music of 70s and 80s” would be happening.

At around 7pm, I arrived in the area where the event was, according to the tourist information office, to take place. Nothing doing. All was quiet and there was no sign of anything that could be even vaguely described as “Warholesque”. I thought I might have been too early, but wandered over to the stage to see if anything was happening there. What was happening was that a large man in a very bad shirt was singing some kind of folk-type song, backed up by another large man in a matching bad shirt and a large lady in a voluminous frock in a truly horrendous print. It was hard to see any connection between this and Andy Warhol, unless it was supposed to depict one of Andy’s possible nightmares! Judge for yourselves:

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I went for dinner and a walk, and returned later, but the sound equipment had been packed up and taken away, and the area around St Urban’s tower was deserted. If there was to be an event celebrating Andy Warhol, it wasn’t going to be on Friday night. It wasn’t on Saturday night either, as again the square was deserted and there was nothing happening on the stage.

The only tangible evidence that there had ever been any sort of celebration of Andy Warhol in Košice was this decorated shoe, which I spotted in the old city on Saturday morning.

IMG_2966

I’m a bit mystified about the whole thing. Was there supposed to be an Andy Warhol event but it got cancelled? Is it happening at another time? Or was it just something that was organised last year when Košice was the European City of Culture and people, including the tourist office, just assumed that it would happen again but nobody actually organised it? Why did the Mihal Gallery not respond to my request to see their Warhol collection? I will probably never know. I’m glad I didn’t go to Košice specially for this event, because I would have been very disappointed. But I think Andy Warhol would have found the whole thing quite amusing. And Košice is a very nice city.

Here’s a shot of a statue of Andy Warhol I took at the Elesko vineyard and Zoya art museum last year when I went on a wine-tasting tour. If you’re looking for an accessible way to see Andy Warhol’s work in Slovakia this is probably a much better bet, and they had a good collection. And if the artwork disappoints you, at least there’s wine!
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