Pop open a can of Campbell's soups for Warhol celebration

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A half-century after his paintings of Campbell's Soup cans helped launch the pop art movement, Andy Warhol is inspiring an update of the label he made famous.

Next week, Campbell's is introducing limited-edition cans of tomato soup designed in the pop-art style, featuring vibrant color combinations such as pink and teal, derived from Warhol's original artwork and bearing the artist's face, quotes and signature. The release was planned to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Warhol's first solo show, at a gallery in Los Angeles, featuring canvases of all 32 Campbell's Soup varieties.

The new cans will be sold at most Target stores nationwide for 75 cents per can, and should be in full distribution by Sunday, said Liesl Henderson, spokeswoman for Campbell's North America.

"Warhol and Campbell's have had a very symbiotic relationship over the years," Ms. Henderson said. "He was able to establish a name for himself by painting Campbell's Soup, and we've been able to benefit with the growth of pop art. That's what prompted us to celebrate the 50th anniversary" of his first solo show.

The cans were produced under license from The Andy Warhol Foundation, a not-for-profit corporation in New York that funds contemporary art in accordance with the artist's will. Since its founding in 1987, the foundation says it has distributed $250 million in grants.

"The choice of labels was a true collaborative effort," said Michael Hermann, director of licensing at the Warhol Foundation, in an email.

The starting point, he said, was to review all of Warhol's Colored Soup Can paintings to find four images that worked well as a group and translated well as packaging. Then Campbell's created labels derived from the original works.

Neither the foundation nor the company would reveal the price of the agreement, but Mr. Hermann said, "I can proudly say that revenue from projects such as this contributes to the Foundation's endowment from which it distributes grants."

Mr. Hermann said the two entities "enjoy an amicable relationship dating back many years" and are in regular contact. He said conversations for the Target initiative began earlier this year.

Previous collaborations have occurred as well. In 1985, two years before he died, Warhol painted packages of Campbell's Dry Soup Mix boxes at the company's request (the portrait was unveiled at New York's Whitney Museum and doubled as a product launch). After his death, the company released limited-edition Warhol soup can labels for Giant Eagle stores in 2004, and had a similar arrangement two years later with Barneys New York.

Warhol never sought permission to paint the company's soup cans, and at first Campbell's executives weren't sure what to make of the upstart from Pittsburgh. They even considered suing for copyright infringement, but then decided to wait and see. Soon they recognized his work as the brand-booster it was, sending him cases of tomato soup, commissioning two paintings and establishing the Andy Warhol Scholarship Fund with the New York Academy of Art.

Today, the company says, it is "proud to be associated with [Warhol's] work and currently displays an original Warhol painting at its headquarters in Camden, N.J."

Warhol would have appreciated this to no end, said Nicholas Chambers, the Milton Fine curator of art at The Andy Warhol Museum on the North Side.

"One of Warhol's many masterstrokes was the feedback loop he managed to construct between his artwork and popular culture at large," Mr. Chambers said. "That it continues to function 25 years after his death is an extraordinary testament to his legacy, and one can only imagine Andy approving wholeheartedly."

businessnews - artarchitecture

Sally Kalson: skalson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1610.


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