Andy Warhol. Campbell's Soup Cans. 1962
Ann Temkin: This work consists of 32 separate canvases. And in fact, at the point at which Andy Warhol made these, these were the 32 kinds of Campbell's Soup that you could find on the shelf in the supermarket.
One of the things that Warhol became interested in in the early 1960s was the idea of thinking about painting in terms of repetition rather than in terms of uniqueness. So for this he would use new processes including silk screening, rubber stamping, as well as painting by hand. He would project a drawing of the soup can onto the canvas in order to make sure that each one was done exactly alike. There's nothing here at all that's trumpeting the originality of the artist, the self-expression of the artist.
The Campbell's Soup Cans represent the beginning moment of pop art. The pop artists, in many cases, and certainly in Warhol's, came from working-class backgrounds. Bringing normal American topics, values, habits into the world of fine art was very important to them, I think both artistically and ethically. For Warhol, there was something very radical and daring to say that in a rich art collector's home, what would be on the wall would not be some kind of elitist subject, but a subject so ordinary and mundane and typical of working-class American life as a tin can of soup.
These works are such icons now, it's impossible almost to go back and realize how absolutely irreverent and even shocking these would have been in 1962.