« … in the end, the ordinary is not ordinary; it is extraordinary. » Martin Heidegger in the The Origin of the Work of Art.
According to his biography*, Steve Jobs’ staple food being apples for a while, it may have influenced the choice of his company’s -brilliant- name. Much the same, Andy Warhol explains his election of the Campbell Soup can as an icon, by it being his most regular meal at the time. Robert Indiana (author of the famous pop sculpture LOVE) said: « I knew Andy very well. The reason he painted soup cans is that he liked soup. » We nevertheless assume that Warhol’s mastery in thinking out of the – white – box would have led him to the soup through more sophisticated ways.
The 32 Campbell Soup Cans, (1962), remains one of the most representative – and expensive – works of pop art ever. This work of art made it clear that an art piece needs not be unique to be valuable, drew a critic against elitism and made an apology to communication. From that day on, the Campbell’s brand has been linked to pop art and vice versa, shaping an authentic meeting between a brand and culture.
The short movie that we’re happy to feature in our Vitrine#1, showing the leader of the Factory eating a Burger King Whopper seems to result from the same kind of Warhol’s pop strategy, considering consumerism attitudes as a common aspect of the western world’s culture and meanwhile, setting himself up as a pop idol, like in one of his numerous self-portraits, also proclaiming in passing that anybody else deserves at least ‘15 minutes of fame’ too.
Despite the appearances though, this 4 minutes film from 1982 is not Warhol’s, but one of the 66 Scenes from America, each a video postcard from a journey across America, directed by the Danish filmmaker: Jørgen Leth.
Leth said about this video “… the action takes a very long time to perform; it’s simply agonizing. I have to admit that I personally adore that, because it’s a pure homage to Warhol. It couldn’t be more Warholesque.” See how Warhol’s self promotion was efficient, if even in an other artist’s work, he takes over the lead role, the film’s author himself disappearing behind the pope of pop.
Warhol’s lesson is above all about positioning: his complex and cross over attitude toward art, performance and consumerism, his ability to create and sustain a real community of multidisciplinary artists, and most of all, his talent for communication, led him to a very accurate self promotion. “Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art” he said, not without provocation. Today, Warhol’s field of action between advertising and art continues to fascinate, in business as well as in arts circles. Jonathan E. Schroeder’s* essay about how Warhol’s work helps to enlighten consumer research, depicts him as “an accomplished marketer whose most successful product was himself.”
Despite his influence on other artists, L’enfant terrible of the art scene hasn’t easily reached the Pantheon of Art, but pursued a rare thing in post war art production – becoming a pop star. And he accomplished the challenge to reconcile contemporary art and mainstream communication.
Ref: * Jonhathan E. Schroeder, Andy Wahrol – Consumer Researcher, in Advances in Consumer Research Volume n. 24, 1997, University of Rhode Island, pp 476-482.