PULLMAN, Wash. — The Washington State University Museum of Art will exhibit the original artworks by Andy Warhol entitled “Athletes Series, 1979,” from Wednesday, Oct. 22 through Sunday, Oct. 26.

Richard Weisman, the person responsible for the idea behind the creation of the series, will be on hand Oct. 22 for a 6:30 p.m. public presentation and dialogue in the Fine Arts Center, across the street from Martin Stadium on Wilson Road. Immediately following, he will sign copies of his book, “Picasso to Pop: The Richard Weisman Collection.”

Weisman will also be a featured speaker in an Oct. 23 Art à la Carte session, the informal WSU brown bag lunch series, at 12:10 p.m. in the Compton Union Building, Cascade Room 123. Together with Chris Bruce, director for the Museum of Art, Weisman will discuss Warhol, art and his book, which will be available for purchase and signing. All book sale proceeds will go to support the Museum of Art’s Director’s Fund for Excellence.

The 10 works in “Athletes Series, 1979,” are painted portraits of some of the most influential sports stars of the day, including boxer Muhammad Ali, football’s O.J. Simpson, ice skater Dorothy Hamill, basketball’s Kareem Abdul-Jabar, golfer Jack Nicklaus, ice hockey’s Rod Gilbert, tennis’ Chris Evert, horse racer Willie Shoemaker, baseball’s Tom Seaver and soccer’s Pelé.  There will also be four of Warhol’s famous “Campbell’s Soup” prints from 1968 included in the exhibition and a self portrait from 1967, courtesy of Spokane collector Derald Long.

Weisman, a world-renowned art collector, was a close friend and associate of Warhol’s before the artist’s untimely death in 1987 at age 59.  When asked how he met Warhol, Weisman said, “I don’t know how I met Andy, but I know it was in New York. He knew my family and was rather social, to say the least.  The people I knew attracted him and vice versa. We just had so many coinciding lines in our lives.”

The inspiration for the idea behind the “Athletes Series” came from the concept that “most people’s idea of how to spend their leisure time usually involves, if not revolves around, activities that are either sport- or arts-based,” said Weisman. “Far too often these two areas of activity have no common link or are not associated with one another.” Therefore, he thought it would be interesting to bring the two activities together, thus, the series was born.

Weisman was raised in a family of art collectors but was originally skeptical about collecting artwork.  “My parents were collecting, which made me feel that maybe I shouldn’t. Some people want to go in the opposite direction from their families, but I saw the art they had, and I liked it and wanted to get involved,” he said.

Eventually, Weisman was not only collecting artwork, but had fully immersed himself in the art world.  He threw lavish parties with some of the art world’s elite.  Typically, the guest list at one of his dinner parties would include everyone from celebrities and popular sports stars, to artists and writers and anyone in between.  He became well known as one of New York’s socialites with an appetite for artwork and for throwing a great party.

Bruce was pleased when Weisman, also a friend, accepted his invitation to the Palouse. “Richard is a special person, a world-class guy who possesses a big, generous spirit. We had a gap in the schedule during Dad’s Weekend,” he said. “I called him to see if we could show the ‘Athletes,’ and he responded enthusiastically by agreeing to come to Pullman and meet with the WSU community. He’s taking time out of a busy schedule because he believes in the cause – that great art changes lives.”

Funding for the museum exhibitions and programs for the fiscal year is provided by WSU, the Friends of the Museum of Art, WSU Foundation, Samuel H. and Patricia W. Smith Arts Endowment, Richard Weisman, the Museum of Art/WSU Director’s Fund for Excellence and private donors. Visit the WSU Museum of Art Web site at www.wsu.edu/artmuse.