In 1964, Andy Warhol went to a scientist at Bell Labs and asked if he could make a floating light bulb.
The end result was a bit different — Warhol used a 3M product, which was already used by the military to wrap sandwiches, to create floating pillows filled with helium and air. The ah-ha moment is classic Warhol: He looked at the material and said, "Let's make clouds."
On loan from the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, 150 Silver Clouds will be on display at the Artisphere in Rosslyn from Sept. 12 through Oct. 20.
"Andy Warhol is a major figure in contemporary art and changed the art world. So to have one of his works on view in Arlington at Artisphere — and not in DC — we're very proud of that," Annalisa Meyer, a spokeswoman for the cultural arts center, told Patch.
It's a good fit for Artisphere, she said, as the exhibit's origin at the intersection of science and art — groundbreaking at the time — is in line with the Arlington center's focus on artists who use new and emerging technology.
After consulting with the Andy Warhol Museum, Artisphere staff members said they believe this will be the largest Silver Clouds exhibition on the East Coast — and the first time ever in the greater Washington area.
"We are encouraging people to come and touch Andy Warhol's art," Meyer said. "You can touch these, they bump into you… and this is a great way to introduce children to art in a different way. Often children are told don't touch something. In galleries, for legitimate reasons, you can't walk up and touch a piece of art. This breaks that barrier."
The interactive exhibit is free, but that doesn't mean it's cheap.
Three staff members will have to work eight hours a day twice a week refilling the balloons with the helium and air mixture to maintain the exhibit.
Because of this, Artisphere has launched a crowdfunding campaign with a goal of raising $10,000 to cover maintenance through IndieGoGo. As of Tuesday — which would have been Warhol's 85th birthday — Artisphere was about one-fifth of the way to that goal.
Perks for donating range from a limited edition post card, early entrance to the exhibit and limited edition crochet artwork inspired by Warhol's cover of the Velvet Underground and Nico's 1967 debut album. The big prize is two private hours in the gallery for you and 10 of your friends.
"Lay on the ground, bring in some wine… Do whatever you want. Have fun," Meyer said of the private event.