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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 Tomato Juice Box

Andy Warhol
(American, 1928–1987)

1964. Synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen ink on wood, 10 x 19 x 9 1/2" (25.4 x 48.3 x 24.1 cm)

“I don’t think art should be only for the select few,” Warhol believed, “I think it should be for the mass of the American people.” Like other Pop artists, Warhol used images of already proven appeal and familiarity with mass audiences: celebrities, tabloid news images, comic strips, and, in this work, the most widely consumed variety of Campbell’s canned soup. Appropriating and reproducing Campbell’s packaging outright, Warhol shifts the viewer’s focus from “original” artistic idea to the meaning evoked by a ubiquitous American food brand.

At his New York studio, called the Factory, assistants screenprinted over 40 Campbell’s Tomato Juice Box sculptures. This mass production of art objects was controversial at the time, and still incites debate about the role of the artist, and of originality in art. Warhol made art with other consumer products, namely Brillo Pads, Coca-Cola, and Kellogg’s Corn Flakes.

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 movement composed of initially British, then American artists in the 1950s and 1960s, which was characterized by references to imagery and products from popular culture, media, and advertising.

In the visual arts, appropriation is the intentional borrowing, copying, and alteration of preexisting images and objects.