Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans Go Back on the Shelf

Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans series first exhibited in 1962. Originally, there were 32 paintings, representing the number of varieties of soup sold at the time. They rested on a shelf, to mimic a grocery store aisle, on the walls of Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles.

Warhol once said of his choice of Campbell’s soup cans, “A group or painters have come to the common conclusion that the most banal and even vulgar trappings of modern civilization can, when transposed to canvas, become art.” Taste was another reason he tapped the mundane object to immortalize. “I used to have the same lunch every day for 20 years, the same thing over and over again,” he said. “I used to drink it.” Although the Campbell’s company is said to have considered legal action at the time, legal action was not pursued, opening the door for many more portrayals of the unsung icon by the master of pop art.

MoMA calls the cans “the signature work in the artist’s career,” a “landmark” in its permanent collection. Thus the original 32 paintings are the centerpiece of a new exhibition of the artist’s work from 1953 to 1967. For the first time at MoMA, they’re shown in their original grocery-store line, rather than a grid. The exhibition also includes early drawings and illustrated books Warhol made, as well as other paintings, prints, and sculptures from the time.

Andy Warhol: Campbell’s Soup Cans and Other Works, 1953–1967, April 25 – October 12, 2015, MoMA, NY

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