As early readers of this blog may remember, Andy Warhol and I met in the changing room at Paul Stuart’s, a clothing store that calls itself “an upscale men’s and women’s retailer, known for their unique take on Anglo-American classics.”
Today is the 49th anniversary of Andy’s unique take on another Anglo-American classic, Campbell’s Soup. His first one-man show opened 49 years ago today at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles featuring the iconic paintings of 32 Campbell’s Soup Cans.
Here is the very first review written about Andy’s work by Henry Hopkins for the September 1962 issue of Artforum.
“To those of us who grew up during the cream-colored thirties with “Big-Little Books,” “Comic Books,” and a “Johnson and Smith Catalogue” as constant companions; when “good, hot soup” sustained us between digging caves in the vacant lot and having “clod” fights without fear of being tabbed as juvenile delinquents; when the Campbell Soup Kids romped gaily in four colors on the overleaf from the Post Script page in The Saturday Evening Post, this show has peculiar significance. Though, as many have said, it may make a neat, negative point about standardization it also has a positive point to make. To a tenderloin oriented society it is a nostalgic call for a return to nature. Warhol obviously doesn’t want to give us much to cling to in the way of sweet handling, preferring instead the hard commercial surface of his philosophical cronies. But then house fetishes rarely compete with Rembrandt in esthetic significance. However, based on formal arrangements, intellectual and emotional response, one finds favorites. Mine is Onion.”
Not overwhelmingly flattering, eh? But the foundations of the intellectual debate that would engage pop artists, critics and the public during the decade of the 1960s, were certainly raised with this short review.
When the show opened each piece was marked for sale for $100, and five sold quickly, one to a 26 year old actor named Dennis Hopper, who had just been cast in his first leading role in a film called “Night Tide”. But Irving Blum, the gallery owner suggested buying the full set for $1,000, and Andy agreed. Hopper was apparently not so easily charmed, but eventually agreed to relinquish his soup can to Blum. No record exists of which flavor Hopper had selected, but I’m guessing it was not Consommé.
The 50th anniversary will be marked by with an exhibition of the works at MOCA in Los Angeles.