When you think of the artist Andy Warhol, the first image that probably popped in your head was of a can of Campbell’s soup. The artist and the can have become synonymous with each other.
It was on this day in 1962 that Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Can exhibit opened at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles. It marked the west coast debut of Pop Art, which even though many other artists were producing pop art works, Warhol eclipsed all of them and is now commonly referred to as the creator of Pop Art.
It wasn’t all so great at the beginning though. Fellow artists and the majority of art critics of the time were furious that Warhol surrendered to consumerism. The Campbell’s Soup Cans market a turning point in the art world, where market culture, business and money came in to play in a big way. Warhol’s detractors felt that the soup cans encapsulated all that was wrong with this shift.
Of course, their points of view had absolutely no impact on history. Andy Warhol exploded on to the art world like nothing before and the business of making money is linked to the art world in ways critics from the 1960s couldn’t even have imagined.
Andy became a household name in the 60s, but he started his art career in the 1950s, when he was an illustrator. He was even hired by RCA records to create art for their artists album covers and promotional material. He continued to do illustrations throughout his career, but he preferred silk screening and painting from the 60s until the end.
Like anything else that experiences that level of popularity, Warhol’s soup cans penetrated pop culture at a level rarely seen before. Even today, the Campbell’s cans are still used in print form and that is all due to Warhol’s brilliant show and concept. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the show three years ago, Campbell’s released special edition soup cans in Warholian colour combinations.
In 2008, the Warhol Live! exhibit was presented at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and we were able to see a few of the famous soup cans in person. It may sound cheesy but the experience was semi-religious! To be in the presence of pieces we’ve seen in books and magazines all our lives, we get chills just thinking about it.
If you want to experience the magic and wonder of Andy Warhol, you can travel to Pittsburgh and visit the Andy Warhol Museum. We’re positive that it’s worth it!
Are you inspired by Warhol’s work?
Do you think about him every time you open a can of Campbell’s tomato soup?