Left: New director Eric Shiner poses in the museum with a few of Andy Warhol’s famous silk screens. (Photo Courtesy Ric Evans)
Pitt Alum and former Japanese scholar, Eric Shiner, was officially named director of the Andy Warhol Museum last month, after serving as the acting director since January. The Northside Chronicle recently sat down with Shiner to discuss his goals for the museum, his love of art and the call that brought him back to Pittsburgh after many years abroad.
Northside Chronicle: If you were not involved with museums, what other profession could you see yourself in?
Eric Shiner: I’m definitely not one of those people who have any regrets. Things happen for a reason. It would have been something creative. I once toyed with being an architect. My family owns a chocolate factory, and my dad wanted me to take it over. In the greater scheme of things [doing that] wasn’t of interest to me.
NSC: Where do you see yourself and the museum in the next year? The next 5 years?
ES: Within a year we want to rethink the entire visitors’ experience here at the museum and update things that need a new way of doing things. The physical appearance and the property may take on a different look and feel. I want to make it very engaging and open, extend our reach onto the streets and make it inviting to our neighbors. That’s my goal for the next year. In five years, I hope we have extended our reach globally to be a full-tilt player in the international museum scene. Not only are we out and actively engaged in all kinds of things in the world, but also attract international visitors. With our team, I hope to cement our position as the best museum in the world.
NSC: Where do you see Pittsburgh’s art scene headed?
ES: I think Pittsburgh really has a dynamic arts community that is becoming more diverse and more engaging by the day. We see more artists moving here now from all over the world. It’s viable. It’s affordable. It’s tenable to have a life here and still maintain a career in New York. People are starting to rethink what it means to live in a city. We will be one of the prime examples of the great American city. I sense a newfound energy. I’m excited to see what happens.
NSC: Why do you like being on the Northside?
ES: The thing I like the most is that it’s a diverse neighborhood; economically, socially. It’s the kind of place I feel at home. The architecture is fantastic and of historical significance. It’s a nice place [for the museum] to call home.
NSC: Do you have a favorite spot on the Northside?
ES: The St. Anthony’s Chapel up on Troy Hill is such a hidden jewel that everyone should go see. It is the second largest reliquary outside of Rome. It’s absolutely amazing.
NSC: Why did you choose to return to Pittsburgh after a few years in Japan?
ES: When I came back from Japan (I was there for 5 years), I was offered a job at a major museum there. If I had taken it, I would have been there for the rest of my life. I didn’t want to be that person. I was accepted to Yale and had opportunities for me in the US. I hit New York at the exact right time. Asian art was booming, and I was one of the few that had a background in it. All the right time, right place kind of thing. I never thought about coming back to Pittsburgh as an option until I started to look at other jobs within the museum system. The Andy Warhol Museum had received an endowment to bring on a curator, and the former director got in contact with me and asked, ‘How do you feel about coming home?’ It became very desirable very quickly. It seemed right.
The Andy Warhol Museum is located on Sandusky Street and is open six days a week. For more information about Eric and the museum, please visit: www.warhol.org.