Andy Warhol’s Soup Can with Can Opener (Vegetable) at Christies

Andy Warhols Soup Can with Can Opener Vegetable

Glenn O’Brien: “What’s your favourite painting of all your work?” 

Warhol: “I guess the soup can.”

Andy Warhol’s Big Campbell’s Soup Can with Can Opener (Vegetable), 1962 will star in Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale on 17 May. One of the 20th-century’s most iconic images, Warhol’s ‘Campbell’s Soup Cans’ quite literally changed the course of art in the post-war period. The property of the Cingillioglu Family Collection, the present work was originally part of the legendary collection of Pop Art assembled by Emily and Burton Tremaine, who acquired the painting after a visit to Warhol’s studio in the year of its execution.  It was last sold as part of the renowned collection of Barney A. Ebsworth at Christie’s New York in 2010. The work will be on view at Christie’s King Street in London from 4 March to 8 March.

Francis Outred, Chairman and Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art EMERI, “Warhol’s Soup Cans changed art history by recognizing the rise of mass consumption in society, and predicting the world we live in today.  This painting was made at the very moment of recognition and thereby created the foundation for the for the Pop Art phenomenon which continues to inspire many aspects of contemporary society. The Cingillioglu Family Collection has been established over the past 40 years, collecting the very best across many categories and periods and is particularly known for its strong constellation of Pop art.  Bought at Christie’s in 2010 for over 23 million dollars, Big Campbell’s Soup Can with Can Opener (Vegetable) is now set for a triumphant return to the auction room and presents a real opportunity to acquire one of the most historically relevant and instantly recognizable canvases of the 20th century.”

Conceived and executed in Warhol’s New York factory, Big Campbell’s Soup Can with Can Opener (Vegetable) is the first in Warhol’s series of large-scale hand painted ‘Campbell’s Soup Cans’. In July 1962 it was exhibited at the Wadsworth Athenaeum, Hartford, becoming the first picture by Warhol to ever be shown in a museum. Of the ten large-scale Campbell soup cans painted by Warhol, six are in museum collections, including the Menil Collection, Houston; the Kunsthaus, Zurich; the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf; and two in The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh.

Big Campbell’s Soup Can with Can Opener (Vegetable) directly predates the birth of the silkscreen, prefiguring the means of painting that came to define Warhol’s practice. Looking at the lack of shadow and the treatment of the reflected light on the metal of the tin and of the opener, it becomes clear that Warhol is considering a way to bridge the handmade with the mechanical. The evidence, on close inspection, of traces of pencil on the surface and the rather lush red brushstrokes on the label shows Warhol working through the ideas that would become the focus of his entire career.

When Warhol was asked, in a 1977 interview by Glenn O’Brien, what his favorite work was, he said, ‘I guess the soup can’.* Warhol’s ‘Campbell Soup Can’ paintings draw attention to the world of mass production that had become a fundamental part of modern existence in the 1960s. By co-opting the visual tropes of commercial art, in which he had been trained, Warhol was able to speak to a contemporary audience that was fully conversant in the same language. Recalling the tactics of Marcel Duchamp’s readymade Warhol was able to capture the attention of the media and public like no other artist of our time.

(G. O’Brien, ‘Interview: Andy Warhol”, High Times, August 1977, in K. Goldsmith, ed., I’ll Be Your Mirror: The Selected Andy Warhol Interviews: 1962-1987, New York, 2004, p. 242).

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