On View Now Through Oct. 18, 2015 – Andy Warhol Soup Cans at MoMA,
See Andy Warhol’s 32 Campbell’s Soup Cans and Other Works 1953–1967 At MoMA
To anyone who has even the slightest interest in pop art, the name Andy Warhol is synonymous with the genre as well as the decades it became mainstream. Between 1953 and 1967, when he was most creative and prolific, he produced many works of art that established his name as the foremost pop artist of his time.
But the work that first put him in the spotlight is a series of paintings of soup cans called the “32 Campbell’s Soup Cans” or simply “Campbell’s Soup Cans”.
This famous art consists of 32 paintings of Campbell soup cans on canvas. Measuring 20 inches by 16 inches, all canvases are identical except for the fact that each has a different label printed on it, such as beef, tomato and cheddar. When the painting was originally exhibited at the Ferus Gallery, Los Angeles in 1962, it created a lot of controversy, with some traditionalists going so far as to accuse Warhol of denigrating art by bowing to the dictates of mindless consumerism.
Each of the paintings of Campbell’s soup can was produced using printmaking methods, a process of creating art by printing on paper or canvas. But the technique shouldn’t be confused with photography since it is concerned with creating original work of art. It was only one of the many different types of media Warhol used. During his long and productive career, he worked with hand drawings, paintings, photography, printmaking, silk screening, sculpture, music and movies.
The exhibition, “Andy Warhol: Campbell’s Soup Cans and other Works 1953-1967,” explores the artist’s journey from a commercial illustrator to becoming the beacon of pop art and the indelible imprints he left on modern American culture. The centerpiece of the exhibition is, of course, Campbell’s Soup Cans, which is considered his signature work.
But what is remarkable this time is that the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), which owns the art, has for the first time chosen to show the 32 canvases in a line rather than in a grid, echoing the way they were first exhibited at the Ferus Gallery.
Other works by Warhol shown at the exhibition include drawings and illustrated books he made in the 1950’s, when he was working as a successful commercial artist, and paintings and prints from the 1960’s, when he was at the pinnacle of his fame. Most of these works were created for well placed clients at his studio that he called ‘The Factory’.
Although Warhol continued to work until his death in 1987, these two decades were the most crucial for his long and successful career as an artist.
Today, Campbell’s Soup Cans and several of his other creations are considered torch bearers of the modern art movement. Therefore, a visit to the exhibition to see these modern classics is a must for anyone who is interested in Andy Warhol and the history of modern art.
The exhibition opened at The Paul J. Sachs Prints and Illustrated Book Galleries, second flood, The Museum of Modern Arts (MoMA), on April 25 and was on display through October 18, 2015.
More about the Andy Warhol Campbell’s Soup Cans Paintings
In 1962, a commercial illustrator and an aspiring artist named Andy Warhol held his first solo painting exhibition at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles. Today, that exhibition is remembered for two reasons: first, a series of 32 paintings of Campbell’s soup cans was exhibited for the first time, which marked the beginning of the rise of Warhol as the foremost artist of his time; and second, it is remembered as the first exhibition of what would later be labeled “pop art”.
Campbell’s Soup Cans, or 32 Campbell’s Soup Cans as it is sometimes referred to as, consists of 32 canvases, each measuring 20 inches (height) by 16 inches (width) and bearing a painting of a Campbell Soup can. All the cans appear identical except for the different label printed in red on each can, such as Tomato, Cheddar and Beef. This famous series is now housed at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), in New York.
Each painting of the cans was produced by a printmaking method, a process of making artworks by printing, usually on paper. Unlike photographs, which are printed identically from their negatives, printmaking ensures that each print that has an element of originality.
At the first exhibition of the soup cans, the prints were displayed together on shelves, just like products in a grocery store, but Warhol was not specific about how they should be arranged. Today at the Museum of Modern Arts (MoMA), they are arranged in rows in the chronological order that the soups were introduced. The first place (top left) is taken by the Tomato flavor, which was introduced by the company in 1897.
The paintings attracted wide attention and a volley of criticisms from established artists of the time, who accused Warhol of denigrating art by depicting a mundane commercial product as an art form. But the criticisms only served to spread word about the painting and give Warhol the fame, and later the fortune, that he was after. The paintings did not only establish Warhol as an international artist; they also helped usher in pop art as a major art form in the United States.
Warhol managed to sell only five of the 32 pieces at the first exhibition, one of which was bought by the Hollywood actor Dennis Hopper. Most visitors to the exhibition were at first perplexed as to what to make of the paintings. They were certainly very original, but not something that was generally considered art at the time. Later Irving Wallace, the gallery’s director, bought back all the sold pieces and the remaining pieces from Warhol for $1,000. In 1996, he sold it to MoMA at a reported price of $15 million.
Today, Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans occupy a place of pride at the Museum of Modern Art. The paintings are considered a torchbearer of the modern art movement that swept the United States and the world in the 1960’s and 1970’s.