This summer, Andy Warhol's legendary Campbell's Soup Cans turns 50. Here's everything you need to know about Pop Art's greatest masterpiece.
1. Though Warhol had been successful as a commercial artist -designing book jackets and album covers- he was still struggling to break into the fine art world in 1962.
2. New York's art scene, in particular, had little interest in warhol's work.
3. Warhol's earliest efforts were inspired by comic strips. He abandoned the style because it felt derivative of Roy Lichtenstein.
4. Warhol had to go LA for his first solo show. Irving Blum, the owner of Ferus Gallery, convinced Warhol to show there by telling him the clilentele inclluded movie stars.
5. The tomato soup painting is the most famous. But the work was actually a series of 32 different 20-by-16-inch paintings -one canvas for each Campbell's variety on the market.
6. Warhol's inspiration: "I just paint things I always thought were beautiful, things you use every day and never think about."
(Image credit: Jack Mitchell)
7. The paintings were hung on the wall for the show, but each hanging canvas also rested on a shelf to complete the grocery-store feel of the piece.
8. Warhol's show brought out the catty side of some galleries. A rival LA space filled its window with a pyramid of soup cans under a sign reading, "Get the real thing for only 29 cents a can."
9. Despite the sneers, the show put Warhol on the critical map. It didn't hurt that ArtForum's offices were upstairs from the Ferus Gallery.
10. Commercially, the show was a catastrophe. Although the 32 paintings were priced at a modest $100 each, only six sold. the first went to actor Dennis Hopper.
(Image credit: Flickr user Wally Gobetz)
11. Sales were so abyssmal that owner Blum bought back the few sold paintings to keep the 32 canvasses together as a complete set.
12. Warhol cut Blum a price break for buying them all: $1,000, paid in ten monthly installments.
13. Nice investment. In 1996, Blum sold the set to New York's Museum of Modern Art for a tidy $15 million.
14. Warhol left no instructions for arranging the paintings. For a 2006 show, MoMA arranged the pieces by the year each soup hit the market.
(Image credit: Flickr user Purple Slog)
15. The straightforward 1962 series is Warhol's most famous soup work, but he painted several variations, including ones of cans being crushed or painted in wild colors.
Why Campbell's soup? Warhol explained, "I used to drink it. I used to have the same lunch every day, for twenty years."
Ed. Note: In honor of the 50th anniversary of Warhol's exhibit, the Campbell's Soup Company is issuing limited edition soup cans in pop art colors. Link
The above article is reprinted with permission from the Scatterbrained section of the July-August 2012 issue of mental_floss magazine.