"Soup"-er Art

Nov 26, 2012

Got an art lover who’s also a foodie on your holiday shopping list? Here’s a tasteful gift idea: commemorative Andy Warhol cans of Campbell’s tomato soup.

Stay with me here.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Warhol’s famed 1962 solo gallery exhibition in L.A., where the artist displayed 32 canvases titled "Campbell’s Soup Cans." The wall-sized work went on to become one of the most widely recognized cornerstones of the Pop Art movement.

Warhol claimed to have eaten the same lunch – Campbell’s tomato soup – every day for 20 years.

Now, the familiar red-and-white labels have been reinterpreted in combinations of pink, teal, blue, yellow, purple and green. The colorful collection was recently released exclusively through Target stores. Each can of soup retails for 75 cents, but collectors are already snapping them up on eBay for many times that modest amount.

"Pop Art is for everyone," Warhol proclaims from a thumbnail portrait on one of the four labels in the series. And from another: "The world fascinates me."

A single can of soup is a small thing, but Warhol remains a giant. Through the end of this year, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is presenting "Regarding Warhol: Sixty Artists, Fifty Years." The show explores Warhol’s tremendous impact on modern art by juxtaposing his work alongside works from artists he influenced.

And although Campbell’s did not commission the original work, in the years that followed it developed a strong partnership with the artist. Warhol died in 1987 and directed that his estate be used to create a foundation for the "advancement of the visual arts."

But back to the soup, which has been around since the 1890s. It remains one of the top ten selling, dry-grocery items in U.S. supermarkets.

And even if the average soup-slurper doesn’t appreciate the history and artistry of the label, your hard-to-please, food-and-art-loving gift recipients just might.

Oh, and one more thing: Your fussy friends could actually eat the soup inside the collectible cans - if they wanted to.