Sunday was a big day for the Pittsburgh art world, and an interesting moment in self-storage news. People flocked to local facility Guardian Self-Storage for opening day of Factory Direct: Pittsburgh, an exhibition showcasing the work of 14 contemporary artists. Formerly a mattress factory in the Strip District, the 10,000 square-foot self-storage facility is an ideal site for this exhibit, which features artists’ perspectives on the histories, processes, and materials associated with Pittsburgh factories. The artists’ installations are showcased throughout the facility, including in individual self-storage lockers.
Commissioned by the Andy Warhol Museum, internationally acclaimed artists traveled to Pittsburgh, where they collaborated on projects with factory workers and management. Factory Direct: Pittsburgh curator Eric Shiner asked the artists to select a factory from 75 different choices, and fortuitously, each artist had a different first choice. The artists then worked in residency at their host factories for as long as two weeks to several months, creating sculptures, paintings, videos, photographs, and installations. Bayer, Heinz, Alcoa, and TAKTL were among the chosen corporations.
Given the city’s industrial heritage, Pittsburgh is certainly an appropriate venue for such an exhibition. After all, industrialists such as Andrew Carnegie, George Westinghouse and Henry J. Heinz made Pittsburgh one of the wealthiest cities in the world at the turn of the 20th century. Equally fitting, Pittsburgh is home to Andy Warhol, the contemporary art legend famous for merging art and commerce.
“As the hub of innovation and industry at the turn of the last century, it makes sense to do this show in Pittsburgh. And not only do we have that industrial history, but we have Warhol and his Factory— it all melds together well,” Shiner said.
THE ARTISTS AND THEIR HOST FACTORIES
- ORLAN, France | BodyMedia: Given her tendency to incorporate her body into her work, it is fitting that French performance artist ORLAN chose BodyMedia, the bio-data technology company that produces fitness tracking armbands. ORLAN, who is famous for undergoing a series of plastic surgeries as part of her own artwork in the 1990s, said her BodyMedia exhibit is an update to her MesuRages project from 1974-1983. During the MesuRages project, she used her body to measure public spaces in France and Italy.
- Tomoko Sawada, Japan | Heinz: Sawada assembled 56 different photographs, each featuring a ketchup bottle label in a different language.
- Chakaia Booker, USA | Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University
- Dee Briggs, USA | TAKTL Concrete
- Thorsten Brinkmann, Germany | Construction Junction, a non-profit building material reuse retailer.
- Jeanette Doyle, Ireland | Ansaldo STS USA, a designer and supplier of traffic management and signaling systems.
- Todd Eberle, USA | Eberle photographed all the factories, artists, and factory workers.
- Fabrizio Gerbino, Italy | Calgon Carbon Corp
- Ann Hamilton, USA | Bayer and The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
- William Earl Kofmehl III, USA | Boyd & Blair: Potato Vodka
- Ryan McGinness, USA | Forms+Surfaces, an architectural product design company that builds stainless steel and aluminum walls, benches and trash cans.
- Sarah Oppenheimer, USA | PPG Industries, a supplier of paints, optical products, chemicals and fiber glass.
- Mark Neville, Scotland | While spending six weeks in the impoverished town of Braddock, PA and six more weeks in the affluent Sewickley Heights neighborhood, Neville’s Braddock/Sewickley Heights features a collection of photographs juxtaposing the two communities.
- Edgar Orlaineta, Mexico | Alcoa: Working with the world’s third largest producer of aluminum, Edgar Orlaineta reinterpreted Charles and Ray Eames’ Do-Nothing Machine, a solar-powered apparatus they created in 1958 for Alcoa.
Eric Shiner is excited about what Factory Direct: Pittsburgh can do for the city. "We've got a lot of momentum in the art world in Pittsburgh at the moment, a lot of artists are moving here, and we need to provide them with support structures. I think it'd be really interesting if companies, after seeing this show, start to think how they can engage artists more regularly."
Equally intriguing is the idea that self-storage property owners can make money and increase foot traffic by using their space as an industrial-style art gallery. Check out the exhibition's interactive website, complete with roll-up storage unit doors you can hover over to open.