When art influence soup

There is something so homely and comforting about a mug of hot soup. It works alongside blankets, slippers and chocolate digestives as items that improve winter, or in my current case, autumn. Today, I tried to master the bare legs in October look as my tan arrogance (always a negative consequence to some winter sun) challenged my common sense – head vs. skin, and the latter won. Fortunately I had food to fall back on; and not the kebabs, no salad, rice-laden spoils of Egypt, but hearty English food partnered with a wooly and mercifully concealing winter attire.

These values are what I believe Andy Warhol touched on when he created his famous Campbell Soup paintings and screenprints in the 1960s. The reliability in the outcome and simple pleasure of sipping a steaming mug of the red stuff was symbolic of the mass-consumption of the era. Campbell’s was the every person brand; crystallised in Warhol’s clean graphics and linear imagery, and iconic decades later. Ultimately, Warhol’s art endowed a nostalgic and sentimental value to their humble tin that resonates today. I like to call this the ‘retro factor’ because, perhaps lamely, I view an appreciation of Campbell Soup and the like, as a re-evaluation of the past, rather than being old-fashioned or narrow-minded (colloquial horrors such as “afraid to move on… stuck in the past” spring to mind).

As such, I admire Campbell’s latest marketing and packaging effort. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Warhol’s famous Condensed Soup cans, the brand have released this special edition packaging. Although unfortunately only available in America (and the Ebay blackmarket), the cans reference the artist’s use of bright colours and style. The only surprise is that this idea has not been done before… or has it?


4 responses to “When art influence soup

  1. Hi there

    Hmmm…a nice ‘ode to branded soup’! However, I can’t help but feel a gnawing cynicism when I see this sort of art/commodity ‘synergy’ happening.

    Maybe it’s just because I find Warhol’s art both a supreme act of creativity and the destruction of creativity as an originary force. His choice of the generic, the branded and commodified as items of artistic expression was undeniably clever, but at the same time it sealed the fate of art as a provider of an separable space for critical commentary on the world around it.
    Indelibly infected as it now is with the machinations of the culture industry — with consumerism and mass entertainment –, art has descended to the level of the banal and endlessly reproduceable. It is an assembly line of tired ideas, of artificiality and brand identity. Pallid as tinned chicken soup on an assembly line, art has ceased to offer itself as a canvas for radical critique. Indeed, it cannot do so, since the boundaries between the creatively and commercially inspired are long since erased.
    The fact that Campbell’s has attempted to claim ownership of Warhol’s production underlines this point. What might have been pointed critique on the part of Warhol has itself become fair game for corporate shills looking to hawk a staid product in new packaging. It’s the same process that sees Che Guevara’s face appear on a cheap t-shirt.
    Any critical import from these ‘revolutionaries’ has been absorbed into the very system that they were critiquing…!

    • Definitely agree with you that there is an irony here, and that line between ‘commercial’ and ‘art’ is an increasingly vague one. However, as a branding and marketing exercise I think this works. On an artistic level, I would like to think, perhaps naively, that is not merely a “space for critical commentary on the world” but also a means of self-expression and re-interpretation. As Rene Magritte said “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” – but more the idea and representation of one. In other words, to take art so literally spoils it.

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