Why is this art? Andy Warhol, Campbell's Soup Cans Steven Zucker and Sal Khan discuss Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup Cans
Why is this art? Andy Warhol, Campbell's Soup Cans
- [Steven Zucker] We're looking at one of the single canvases from a series of canvases
- of the Campbell Soup cans by Andy Warhol, from 1962, at the Museum of Modern Art.
- And one of the really important questions that comes up about, especially modern art,
- is, "well, why is this art?"
- [Sal] When you ask me that, a bunch of things kind of surface in my brain.
- It does evoke something in me, so I'm inclined to say yes,
- but then there's a bunch of other things that say, well, if I didn't see this in a museum,
- and if I just saw this in the marketing department of Campbell's Soup
- would you be viewing it differently?
- [Zucker] Because it's advertising then. [Sal] Yes.
- [Steven] But in the context of the museum, or in the context of Andy Warhol's studio,
- it's not quite advertising, right?
- [Sal] Even if it`s the exact same thing. [Steven] Yeah.
- [Sal] And the idea here is by putting at the museum, it's saying
- "look at this in a different way."
- [Steven] Well, that's right. It really does relocate it,
- it does change the meaning, it does transform it
- and thats really one of the central ideas of modern art
- Is that you can take something that`s not necessarily based
- in technical skill,
- cause I don't think you'd say
- that this beautifully rendered. [Sal] Right.
- [Steven] But relocate it and makes us think about it in a different way.
- [Sal] And so, i guess he would get credit for taking something
- that was very, almost mundane, something you see
- on everyone, in everyone's cupboard, and making it a focal point
- Like, "you should pay attention to this thing."
- [Steven] I think that`s exactly right. And i think that he is doing it
- about a subject, that was about as low a subject as one could go.
- I mean cheap advertising art was something that was so far away
- from fine art, from the great Masters
- and then to focus on something as lowly as a can of soup
- and ... and cream of chicken no less.
- [Sal] And, and, and I mean, you know
- A lot of it is, if he did it 50 years earlier people would have though this guy's a quack.
- And if you did it now, they'd just think "he's derivative".
- I mean right it's really just that time where people happened to think this was art.
- [Steven] I think that that's right.
- In 1962, what Warhol is doing is saying what is it about our culture that is really authentic and important
- and it was about mass production, it was about factory
- in a sence he said let's not be looking at nature as if we're an aguarian culture
- we're now an industrial culture.
- what is the stuff of our world now
- I thik I'm 80% there
- I remember when I was in college there was a student run art exhibit
- and as a prank a student actually put a little podium there and put his lunch tray
- he put a little placard next to it you know Lunch Tray on Saturday
- so he did it as a prank and everyone thought it was funny
- and to some degree it sounds like what he did was art
- well i think that's why it was funny, because it's so close
- and to some degree when someone took a lunch tray and gave it the proper lighting
- and gave it a podium to look at it and write a whole description about it
- I did view the lunch tray in a different way
- It's kinda the same idea. It's a mondane thing and you use it every day
- Was that a prank, or was that art?
- Well, I think it is a prank, but it's very close to art that some important art
- He had liscense to do that thanks to Marcel Duchamp
- Inn fact Warhol had the same sort of license to not focus on the making of something
- to not focus on the brushwork, to not focus on the composition, not focus on the color
- but to refocus on the making of ideas.
- and the reason why we talk about warhol or duchamp or any of these guys
- is that as you say, it's not like they did anything technically profound
- campbell's soups' marketing department had already done something as equally profound
- it's more that they were the people who looked at the world in a different way and highlighted that
- Well, I think that that's right. Warhol is consiously working towards, asking the same questions
- that the prankster at your school is asking
- He's saying can this be art?
- and in fact, he's really pushing it.
- Look at the painting closely for a moment.
- this is one of the last paintings he actually painted.
- He's really defined the calligraphy of the campbell's soup
- the reflection of the tin at the top.
- But then he stopped. and he said, I don't want to paint the flore de leafs,
- You see the flore de leafs at the bottom.
- I don't want to paint those, so he had a rubber stamp made and placed them down mechanically.
- What does that mean for an artist, to say, I don't want to even paint these?
- I'm just going to find a mechanical process to make this easier.
- Warhol is doing something which is important which is reflecting the way
- that we manufacture, that we construct the world
- think about the things that we surround ourselves with.
- Almost everything was made in a factory
- Almost nothing is singular in the world anymore
- It's not a world that we would normally find beautiful.
- I know sometimes I feel, correct me if I'm wrong, that a decision was made
- that Warhol was interesting or great, and then
- people will interpret his stuff to justify his greatness
- that oh, look he used a printer instead of drawing it which shows that he was
- reflecting the...
- But if he'd don'e it the other way, handdrawn it or drawn it with his elbow
- or finger painted it or something
- people would say "This is tremendous. We would normally see this printed by machine
- but now he did it with his hands"
- How much do you think this is the case? Or am I just being cynical.
- No, I think that there's value in a certain degree of cynicisim
- and i think in some ways what we're really talking about here is
- What does it mean to be an avant guard artist what does it mean to sort of change
- the laguage of art and try to find ways that relate to our historical moment
- in some sort of direct and authentic way
- and maybe it's easy for me to say this because i remember looking at this
- when I was in fifth grade art class Andy Warhol and all that
- And now it seems almost not that unique
- But what I'm hearing is in 62, what I'm hearing is Warhol was really noteworthy because he pushed how people were thinking
- I think that Warhol was looking for, in 1962, a kind of subject matter
- that was completely outside of the scope that we could have considered fine art
- And one of his contemporaries, Roy Lichtenstien, was asked to define what pop art was
- and he said well we were looking for a subject matter that was so dispicable, so low
- that nobody could possibly believe that it was art
- And I think you're right and we think it's so much a part of our visual culture
- that we accept it.
- This is fascinating. I think there's a lot of potential there.
- It's psuedo art created for other purposes, but if you shine a light on it
- In the way a light have been shown on this
- In your mind, does this cross the barrier into being art?
- Well, I think that, you mentioned before, if someone did this now, it would feel derivative.
- And I think that that's right, it underscores how hard it is to find in our culture now
- ways of making us see the world in new ways
- Yea, fascinating.
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