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Appropriation

Pop artists absorbed and borrowed from popular culture, challenging notions of originality and what it means to be an artist.


Campbell's Soup Cans

Andy Warhol
(American, 1928–1987)

1962. Synthetic polymer paint on thirty-two canvases, Each canvas 20 x 16" (50.8 x 40.6 cm)

When Warhol first exhibited these Campbell’s Soup Cans in 1962, they were displayed together on shelves, like products in a grocery aisle. At the time, the Campbell’s Soup Company sold 32 soup varieties; each canvas corresponds to a different flavor. Warhol did not indicate how the canvases should be installed. At MoMA, they are arranged in rows that reflect the chronological order in which the soups were introduced. The first flavor introduced by the company was tomato, in 1897.

Campbell’s Soup Cans reproduces an object of mass consumption in the most literal sense. These paintings were silkscreened, a printmaking method originally invented for commercial use. In a semi-mechanized process, Warhol repeated the same basic soup can image on dozens of canvases. He then hand-painted or stenciled the names of the individual soup varieties. Warhol said of Campbell’s Soup, “I used to drink it. I used to have the same lunch every day, for 20 years, I guess, the same thing over and over again. Someone said my life has dominated me; I liked that idea.”

An impervious material perforated with letters, shapes, or patterns through which a substance passes through to a surface.

A printing technique in which areas of a silkscreen, comprised of woven mesh stretched on a frame, are selectively blocked off with a non-permeable material (typically a photo-emulsion, paper, or plastic film) to form a stencil, which is a negative of the image to be printed. Ink is forced through the mesh onto the printing surface with a squeegee, creating a positive image.

A term describing a wide variety of techniques used to produce multiple copies of an original design. Also, the resulting text or image made by applying inked characters, plates, blocks, or stamps to a support such as paper or fabric.

A Man of Many Talents
Andy Warhol was a fashion illustrator, painter, printmaker, sculptor, magazine publisher, filmmaker, photographer, and archivist of his times. His early paintings drew on his experiences as a commercial illustrator, and appropriated motifs from advertising and comics.

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AUDIO: Former MoMA Curator Kirk Varnedoe on Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans