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Andy Warhol: Ads Portfolio 5 Things to Know Andy Warhol: Ads Portfolio 5 Things to Know

Andy Warhol: Ads Portfolio

5 Things to Know
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Andy Warhol (1928 – 1987) explored the intersection between art and commerce like no other artist in history. Beginning his career as a commercial illustrator, his transition to contemporary art was marked by the depiction of everyday products such as Campbell’s Soup cans, Brillo boxes and Coca-Cola bottles. 

Discover 5 Things to Know about Andy Warhol's Ads Portfolio. If you are interested in adding to your collection. Speak to an art consultant now. 

1. Ads marks Warhol coming full circle, returning to his artistic roots as a commercial illustrator
Andy Warhol
Campbell's Soup I, 1968
Screenprint on paper

Each 88.9 cm x 58.4 cm
Edition of 250 (+ 26 AP, A-Z)

Complete portfolio of ten screenprints on paper
Each signed in ball-point pen and numbered with a rubber stamp, on verso

1. Ads marks Warhol coming full circle, returning to his artistic roots as a commercial illustrator

Andy Warhol’s transformation of familiar products into works of art developed from his artistic origins as an illustrator for fashion brands and magazines. After graduating in 1949 from the Carnegie Institute of Technology with a degree in Pictorial Design, Warhol moved to New York to pursue a career as a commercial artist. His illustrations for shoe advertisements – in particular those created for I. Miller, the premier shoe emporium of the time – established his reputation.

Warhol experienced much success in the field of illustration, with his designs being featured in major publications such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. However, by the 1960s he began to transform the imagery of everyday products into works of art in their own right. His breakthrough exhibition at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles consisted of 32 paintings of Campbell’s Soup Cans, marking his transition into the realm of contemporary art. In the following decades, as a pioneer of the Pop art movement he reimagined the possibilities of paintings and prints.

‘When you think about it, department stores are kind of like museums where images of mass advertising and popular culture that everyone can recognise are a form of art.’

Andy Warhol

2. The Ads series continues Warhol’s exploration of consumerism and celebrity culture
Andy Warhol
Mobil , 1985
Screenprint on Lenox Museum Board
96.5 x 96.5 cm
Edition of 190 (+ 30 AP, 5 PP, 5 EP, 10 HC, 10 I–X, 1 BAT, 30 TP)

2. The Ads series continues Warhol’s exploration of consumerism and celebrity culture

The appropriation of striking logos and the familiar visual language of advertising recalls Warhol’s earlier iconic works depicting Brillo boxes, Campbell’s Soup cans and Coca-Cola bottles. For Warhol, despite being the products of capitalism, these brands could be a leveller for society. The artist observed:

‘What's great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest.’

Warhol’s cultivation of a distinctive personal brand and the rise of Pop art were a reaction to the dominant artistic movement of the time: Abstract Expressionism, which focused on spontaneous gestures and an expressive approach to painting. By appropriating and repeating the imagery of everyday products, Warhol’s Ads elevated the ubiquitous advertising material of the 20th century into vibrant works of art.

‘The Pop artists did images that anybody walking down Broadway could recognise in a split second – comics, picnic tables, men’s trousers, celebrities, shower curtains, refrigerators, Coke bottles —all the great modern things that the Abstract Expressionists tried so hard not to notice at all.’

Andy Warhol

3. The Ads are rich in symbolism which predates the brands they depict
Andy Warhol
Ads: Apple, 1985
Screenprint in colour on Lenox Museum Board
96.5 x 96.5 cm
Edition of 190 (+ 30 AP, 5 PP, 5 EP, 10 HC, 10 I–X, 1 BAT, 30 TP)

3. The Ads are rich in symbolism which predates the brands they depict

Some of the key symbols in these iconic advertising campaigns have shaped the collective consciousness for millennia, being prevalent in great works of art and literature. For instance, the Pegasus motif in the Mobilgas logo originates from Greek mythology, being emblematic of fame and artistic inspiration (rather aptly, for Warhol), while the Apple ad features the Biblical symbol of original sin and temptation which is loaded with subliminal associations. The inclusion of the Apple ad in this series was no coincidence:  less than a year prior to conceiving the Ads, Warhol had encountered a young Steve Jobs in Yoko Ono’s New York apartment. This exchange between two of the most famous innovators of 20th century culture was captured in Warhol’s diaries:

‘[Jobs] gave me a lesson on drawing with [the Apple computer] … I felt so old and out of it with this young whiz guy right there who’d helped invent it.’

(Andy Warhol, diary entry for Tuesday 9 October 1984).

4. Warhol carefully selected his Ads based on their personal and cultural significance
Andy Warhol
Paramount, 1985
Screenprint on Lenox Museum Board
96.5 x 96.5 cm
Edition of 190 (+ 30 AP, 5 PP, 5 EP, 10 HC, 10 I–X, 1 BAT, 30 TP)

4. Warhol carefully selected his Ads based on their personal and cultural significance

The familiar faces featured in the Ads were also meaningful to Warhol as an extension of his portraits of Hollywood icons. The figure of James Dean, who died at the age of 24, embodies the twin themes of fame and tragedy in Warhol’s oeuvre, while the inclusion of the Blackglama ad reflects the artist’s lifelong reverence for Judy Garland. Her performance as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz made an impression onthe young Warhol, who would write fan letters to the actress. After becoming acquainted with Garland as an adult and befriending her daughter Liza Minnelli, he described her as ‘the greatest actress you could imagine every second of her life.’

The inclusion of the Paramount logo in Ads not only reflected Warhol’s love of cinema but also held deep personal significance. His partner of five years, Jon Gould, was an executive at Paramount Pictures and there are many references to their relationship in the artist’s diaries. Gould died of AIDS in 1986 at the age of 33, just months before Warhol’s own untimely death. Cataloguing moments in Warhol’s own life while simultaneously reflecting 20th century history, the Ads are a kind of personal and cultural time capsule, foreshadowing the exponential growth of some of the world’s biggest brands.

5. Warhol’s Ads originals radically redefined painting
Andy Warhol
Ads: Life Savers, 1985
Screenprint on Lenox Museum Board
96.5 x 96.5 cm
Edition of 190 (+ 30 AP, 5 PP, 5 EP, 10 HC, 10 I–X, 1 BAT, 30 TP)

5. Warhol’s Ads originals radically redefined painting

Although Warhol’s printmaking practice centred around repetition as a reflection of mass consumption in Western society, he often created unique paintings in tandem with his editioned prints. His Ads series was conceived both as a portfolio of prints and as a set of ten paintings on canvas, each with a distinct colourway. These original paintings adhered to the silkscreening process traditionally used for commercial printing. The groundbreaking idea of transposing advertising imagery from printed magazines on to a canvas bridged the gap between commercial and fine art, challenging the traditional definition of a painting. Warhol’s Ads paintings and prints transformed the ephemeral and fleeting images of mass media into era-defining works of art: immortalising them for posterity.

‘He truly elevated commercial art to the status of fine art, blurring established frontiers between art, commerce and advertising, three worlds which hardly communicated prior to Warhol.’ 

Paul Maréchal, art historian

 

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Andy Warhol: Beyond the Brand

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