The "Open This End" exhibit currently displayed at Ohio State University's Urban Arts Space - as well as an installation at the university's Hopkins Hall gallery on campus - features the most renowned collection of contemporary art the downtown gallery has ever housed. The 77 pieces from the 1,300-piece collection of distinguished collector Blake Byrnes feature names like Andy Warhol, Gerhard Richter, Mike Kelley, David Hammons, Tony Smith and Marlene Dumas. But don't let that intimidate you.

The "Open This End" exhibit currently displayed at Ohio State University's Urban Arts Space - as well as an installation at the university's Hopkins Hall gallery on campus - features the most renowned collection of contemporary art the downtown gallery has ever housed. The 77 pieces from the 1,300-piece collection of distinguished collector Blake Byrnes feature names like Andy Warhol, Gerhard Richter, Mike Kelley, David Hammons, Tony Smith and Marlene Dumas. But don't let that intimidate you.

"I've always [wanted] people to just relax and enjoy art. And don't be afraid to express yourself with art. If you think one thing, you could be just as right as the next person because the art is communicating something to you," said Byrne during a mid-August phone interview from his Los Angeles office. "I think Andy Warhol's 'Open This End' piece was his way of at least trying … saying, 'hey, don't be afraid to try, or to join in, or enter into the house, or have love for art.' My interpretation of that piece is that he wanted everyone to feel welcome in the art world."

Yes, the pieces in "Open This End" are challenging and complex, but the goal of the exhibit and the myriad of educational programming - seven Ohio State courses this fall will involve the exhibit in their curriculum - and panel discussions are designed to embrace that complexity and get everyone (not just art history majors) excited about contemporary art.

When Byrne envisioned "Open This End" four years ago as a celebration for his 80th birthday this year, he saw it as a chance to give back to the four universities (Ohio State, Duke - Blake's alma matter and where "Open This End" first exhibited in March - Columbia and Lewis & Clark) and their communities because each had significant meaning in his life. But he didn't just want to open his collection to the public - he wanted to get everyone excited about these works by delving deep into their background, sociological and cultural importance and the sheer wonder of the work.

"What I was hoping was that in terms of being able to support the exhibit, that the universities would then be able to incorporate the exhibit into their curriculum. And OSU has gone over the top and established a number of courses around the exhibition. We're also going to have seminars around collecting and philanthropy, ethics in art and a panel on AIDS," Byrne said. "I'm terribly pleased with Ohio State's innovativeness in terms of integrating the collection into the curriculum and the community. It's great that they are able to bring people in to art besides the art history majors. This exhibit can bring people into the museum, the collection and the panel discussions who will never be art history majors but can just have a visual appreciation that will hopefully last the rest of their lives. That's what I think is so vital in all this and excites me. There will people who will hopefully become museumgoers or collectors or just become participants of the visual medium [by having the] experience of seeing work like this."

"The purpose of this exhibition from the start was to travel to these institutions that have meant a lot to Blake and his family. But the premise as well was for these universities to take from this exhibition what they could utilize as well, and present it to their [specific] communities in ways they thought would be most beneficial," said Valarie Williams, associate dean of Arts and Humanities and executive director of the Arts Initiative at Ohio State.

Even though "Open This End" is characterized by revolutionary works of art - and incorporates numerous themes important to contemporary art, including Pop Art and Conceptualism, the Pictures Generation, performance art and the Abject Body, California Conceptualism, Minimalism, German Pop and European art since the 1980s, identity politics, and portraiture and self-portraiture - it also comes with the purpose of the audience finding a personal relationship with this art, because that's how Byrne collects.

"These 77 works really do give you an insight into Blake's personality, his eclectic collecting and the way he has conversations with different works of art. Each one of these works represents something very interesting to him," said Williams, referring specifically of Byrne's connection to Christopher Williams' "Model: 1964 Renault Dauphine-Four."

Byrne was enamored with the California conceptualism photograph because it reminded him of a tough period in his life when he was contemplating his sexuality and even suicide while driving a 1964 Renault after he'd found out he would be drummed out of the Army for having a homosexual affair. Byrne goes in-depth about this experience with a video complimenting the piece.

"I told that story because it's good for the kids. They get frustrated and have to know that they're not the only person in the world who ever thought that - that's they're not the only person in the world who has gay feelings," said Byrne, who will be part of a panel discussion on philanthropy ethics and art Sept. 24 and in attendance for the reception on Sept. 25.