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Andy Warhol puts stamp on the world -- again

Saturday, August 10, 2002

By Adrian McCoy

The often-repeated serial images of famous faces or commercial products in Andy Warhol's art mirrored a culture of mass production. Imagine what a kick he would have had out of seeing one of his paintings reproduced millions of times -- 61 million to be exact.

Matthew Warhola, 2, of Cranberry stands in the spotlight in front of a huge reproduction of the U.S. postage stamp honoring his great uncle, Andy Warhol, during yesterday's unveiling ceremony at the Andy Warhol Museum on the North Side. (Andy Starnes, Post-Gazette)

It happened yesterday with the unveiling of a new commemorative postage stamp featuring one of Warhol's self-portraits. The official unveiling ceremony by the United States Postal Service was held at the Andy Warhol Museum.

The new first-class postage stamp made its world premiere here yesterday and was available for sale in Pittsburgh only. It goes on sale elsewhere in the country today.

The stamp is part of the postal service's celebration of the fine arts. The stamp was designed by Richard Sheaff of Scottsdale, Ariz., and features Warhol's painting "Self-Portrait, 1964."

The image of the artist was taken from a photo booth picture and rendered in silkscreen ink and synthetic polymer paint on canvas. It's now part of the Warhol museum collection.

Also in the 20-stamp page is a detail from a photograph by Billy Name called "Andy with Self-Portrait, 1967,"' along with a Warhol quote: "If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface: of my paintings and films and me, and there I am. There's nothing behind it.'"

It wasn't your typical Good Fridays evening crowd at the Warhol. Serious stamp collectors and noncollectors who were just interested in getting a new postage stamp with a local connection formed long lines to buy the stamps. Warhol's brothers Paul Warhola and John Warhola and other family members were there for the unveiling. So were postal service officials and employees and political representatives.

Mayor Tom Murphy -- who's also a stamp collector -- was among the evening's speakers. "That a native son of ours can achieve this kind of recognition...is great for Pittsburgh," he said.

Warhol Museum director Thomas Sokolowski said it was gratifying that the nation would choose an artist to represent it by putting his face on a postage stamp. "When something that someone does is now the coin of the realm, it means a lot."

But he also noted that it was important to remember who Warhol was and what he stood for, and what his success as an artist has meant to the culture.

"He did it by causing trouble. He did it because he was different. He did it because he wanted the world to know there were different ways of being and living."

The Warhol museum is also presenting a stamp-themed exhibit of items from its collections, including a postage stamp Warhol designed for the United Nations, a painting of of an airmail stamp and an S&H Green Stamps print, along with some of the proposed designs for the Warhol stamp. They're also selling T-shirts and framed prints of the Andy stamp.

The most popular stamp ever was the Elvis Presley stamp, which came out in 1993. Out of the 517 million issued, 124 million were saved and never used for mailing letters.

Celebrity stamps are usually popular, said Gary McCurdy, the postal service's eastern area vice president. Although figures weren't available, McCurdy said it looked like sales of the Warhol stamp were off to a good start.

The commemorative stamp program generates between $200 million and $300 million in revenues, according to the the U.S. Postal Service.

The Warhol stamps can be purchased at post offices, online at www.usps.com/shop or by calling 1-800 STAMP 24.

Collectors can get a first day of issue postmark by putting one of the Warhol stamps on a self-addressed envelope, and putting them in a larger envelope addressed to Andy Warhol Commemorative Stamp, Postmaster, 1001 California Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15233-9991.

The post office will apply the first day of issue postmark and return them by mail. There's no charge. Orders must be postmarked by Sept. 9.


Adrian McCoy is a free-lance writer.

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