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  • Provenance

    Sonnabend Gallery, New York; Leo Castelli Gallery, New York; Collection; Marchese Carlo Durazzo, Florence; Collection Mr. & Mrs. Leo Castelli, New York; Private collection, Sweden

  • Exhibited

    London, Mayor Gallery, Summer Selection from the Sixties, July 21 – October 9, 1991

  • Literature

    R. Crone, Andy Warhol, New York/Washington, 1970, no. 521, p. 306; G. Frei, N. Prinz, and S. King-Nero, eds., The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonne: Paintings and Sculptures 1964-1969, Volume 02B, Zurich/New York, cat. no. 1866, p. 203 (illustrated) and p. 205

  • Catalogue Essay

    Why did you start painting soup cans?

    “Because I used to drink it. I used to have the same lunch every day, for twenty years, I guess, the same thing over and over again. Someone said my life has dominated me; I liked that idea. I used to want to live at the Waldorf Towers and have soup and a sandwich, like that scene in the restaurant in Naked Lunch.” (Andy Warhol interviewed by G. Swanson, “What is Pop Art? Interviews with Eight Painters (Part I)”, Art News, New York, November, 1963).

    Andy Warhol, in what began as a commission for the Campbell Soup Company in 1964, created this series of ‘portraits’ of an everyday item, the tomato soup label emblazoned with day-glo colors onto canvas, which soon became irrefutable symbols of the Pop Art movement. His simple technique, using the same silk screening method he mastered in the Flowers series which precedes the Colored Campbell’s Soup Cans, secured for Warhol, more than any other image of his creation, the preeminent post held throughout his career as a generation’s taste-maker and the American avant-garde artist. Further, it would be this technique which would characterize Warhol’s artistic oeuvre for the rest of his career, foreshadowing his extremely iconic imagery that followed.

    The present lot, completed in 1965, was once in the personal collection of Leo Castelli. The painting hung in Castelli’s New York bedroom during Warhol’s epoch. Evidently Castelli held this painting in high esteem as it served as both a symbol of Castelli’s own career, and more importantly of Warhol’s successful immergence on the critical art world. Castelli was instrumental in shaping Warhol’s early career and no doubt the dealer selected this work out of personal affection.

    Through statements made by Warhol at the time, we know that his pivotal concern in the production of the Soup Cans was the routine process through which the silk screening evolved. Having just moved his studio into a much larger space on 47th Street, known colloquially as The Factory, Warhol’s works in 1965 signify the transition his artwork took as a result of the new studio space.

    In essence, The Factory which most often conjures imagery of Warhol’s social status and exuberant personality, was in actuality also a literal model of the American factory. The production of the Campbell’s Soup Cans, overseen by Warhol, was done with a deliberately industrial, machine-like methodology, the artist acknowledging the consumerist, commercial appeal to not only the symbol of the soup can he portrays but also to how his representation of it was fabricated from the very beginning. For the artist, the principle ingredient in his process was the very essence of mass-production. He was the designer, choosing paint colors and application, but the scale of mass production appealed to him as it served an appropriate metaphor to the subject he chose.

    In an interview in 1963 Warhol explains how the materiality appealed to him as it manifests itself within the scope and aim of Pop Art. When asked if Pop Art is a fad, he responds: “Yes, it’s a fad, but I don’t see what difference it makes. I just heard a rumor that G. quit working, that’s she’s given up art altogether. And everyone is saying how awful it is that A. gave up his style and is doing it in a different way. I don’t think so at all. If an artist can’t do any more, then he should just quit; and an artist ought to be able to change his style without feeling bad. I heard that Lichtenstein said he might not be painting comic strips a year or two from now—I think that would be so great, to be able to change styles. And I think that’s what’s going to happen, that’s going to be the whole new scene. That’s probably one reason I’m using silk screens now. I think somebody should be able to do all my paintings for me. I haven’t been able to make every image clear and simple and the same as the first one. I think it would be so great if more people took up silk screens so that no one would know whether my picture was mine or somebody else’s. (…) The reason I’m painting this way is that I want to be a machine, and I feel that whatever I do and do machine-like is what I want to do.” (Andy Warhol interviewed by G. Swanson, “What is Pop Art? Interviews with Eight Painters (Part I)”, Art News, New York, November, 1963).

    For Warhol, this method neither detracted nor added to the allure of the artwork; rather, the production process itself enabled the artist to articulate his theories towards his unique approach to the artistic scene, and served to provide a metaphoric end quotation to the generation of Abstract Expressionists who Warhol very ardently referenced, most typically trying to distinguish himself from it.

    Warhol’s process of creation in painting the Cambell’s Soup Cans was also inventive because the artist incorporated day-glo, imaginative colors into his canvases. With what began in the Flowers, Warhol elaborated with for the soup cans. Rather than simply add white to paint supplied to diversify his color palette, Warhol instead incorporated blending and for the first time used a much wider range of colors. It would be these “fauve” colors, in the end, that revolutionized Warhol’s approach to the tried and true subject.

    In the present lot, Warhol combines tropical green, lavender, turquoise, red and yellow in the most alluring grouping. What is captivating about Warhol’s selection is their indirect reference to the lifestyle he led in the days of the painting’s production. That is to say, the infamous ‘back room’ of the Factory undoubtedly fueled many of Warhol’s artistic passions, through the combined effect of hallucinatory drugs and partying. The colors themselves conjure up the Rock & Roll, celebrity, fashion, and youth that typified Warhol’s existence during the 60s.

    At its height in late 1965 and early 1966, the Factory hovered in time with a magical presence infused in the air. As one factory legion describes, “At that point in my life, in everybody’s life, that was the culmination of the Sixties. What a year. Oh, it was splendid. Everything was gold, everything. Every color was gold. It was just fabulous. It was complete freedom. Any time I went to the Factory, it was the right time. Any time I went home, it was right. Everybody was together; it was the end of an era. That was the end of the amphetamine scene; it was the last time amphetamine really was good. And we used it. We really played it.” (S. Koch, “The Once-Whirling Other”, Saturday Review World, September 25, 1973, p. 23).

    Art-historical legend (as conceived by critic Dave Hickey) also lays a claim to the fact that Warhol’s depiction of the Campbell’s soup can is a tongue-and-cheek allusion to the principal aesthetic of Abstract Expression. Meaning, the murky colors and gloppy textures employed by Pollock and 1950s contemporaries, conjures imagery of a bowl of soup—Warhol drives a literal relationship that also pokes fun at his canonical predecessors.

    As art historians Charles Harrison and Paul Wood describe, “The characteristic concerns of the period issue in the later 1950s and early 1960s in works which combine insouciant celebration and skeptical analysis, in varying proportions. The need to achieve representation of a new sense of modernity is a clear preoccupation of the art and art theory of these years. The work of the Pop artists reminds us that one central if neglected preoccupation of the modern tradition was to diagnose the character of modernity through the ephemeral appearances of modern urban life. Were the Baudelairean flâneur displaced from the Paris of the 1860s to be reincarnated in modernized form in the New York of the 1960s, he might have recognized his ironic but fascinated regard in the paintings of a Roy Lichtenstein or an Andy Warhol. Their work shares with the theoretical work of Roland Barthes and even of Guy Debord the tendency to treat the modern as a form of surface, which is revealing of meaning and value by virtue of its very artificiality,” (C. Harrison and P. Wood, Art in Theory 1900-1990 An Anthology of Changing Ideas, Massachusetts, 1992, p. 684).

    By selecting the Campbell’s label as his subject matter, Warhol manufactures an already highly commercialized symbol of commodity. Their popular identity is intrinsically linked to the artist’s larger pursuit and also label the importance of the Factory which served as backdrop to their production, providing the fuel to their fire. More importantly, however, Warhol strove through his Colored Campbell’s Soup Cans to identify a clear vision of art’s aim in the mid 1960s, as America’s protagonists, and above all Andy Warhol, served a consequential new role on the international scene in guiding the direction of contemporary art.

  • Artist Biography

    Andy Warhol

    American • 1928 - 1987

    Known as the “King of Pop,” Andy Warhol was the leading face of the Pop Art movement in the United States in the 1960s. Following an early career as a commercial illustrator, Warhol achieved fame with his revolutionary series of silkscreened prints and paintings of familiar objects like Campbell's soup tins, and celebrities like Marilyn Monroe. Obsessed with popular culture, celebrity, and advertising, Warhol created his slick, seemingly mass-produced images of everyday subject matter from his famed Factory studio in New York City. His use of mechanical methods of reproduction, notably the commercial technique of silk screening, wholly revolutionized art-making.

    Working as an artist, but also director and producer, Warhol produced a number of avant-garde films in addition to managing the experimental rock band The Velvet Underground and founding Interview magazine. A central figure in the New York art scene until his untimely death in 1987, Warhol was notably a mentor to such artists as Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

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50

Colored Campbell’s Soup Can

1965
Synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen on canvas.
36 x 24 in. (91.4 x 61 cm).
Signed “Andy Warhol” on the reverse.

Estimate
$4,150,000 - 4,150,000 

Sold for $3,400,000

Contemporary Art Part I

17 May 2007
7pm New York