VC501 – Design Manifesto: Andy Warhol, Pop Art & 60’s Consumerism

“You can see a billboard for Tab and think: Nancy Regan drinks tab, Gloria Vanderbilt drinks Tab. Jackie Onassis drinks Tab, and just think, you can drink Tab too. Tab is Tab and no matter how rich you are, you can’t get a better one than the homeless woman on the corner is drinking. All the Tabs are the same. And all the tabs are good. Nancy Regan knows it, Gloria Vanderbilt knows it, Jackie Onassis knows it, Katharine Hepburn knows it, the baglady knows it, and you know it.” – Andy Warhol from America.

Pop Art emerged in the early 1960s as, wherein artists used everyday consumer objects as subjects. Andy Warhol helped shape American consumerism during the 1960s. Warhol’s first New York solo pop art exhibition was hosted at Eleanor Ward’s Stable Gallery on November 26th 1962. The exhibit included the works Marilyn Diptych, 100 Soup Cans, 100 Coke Bottles and 100 Dollar Bills. This early works are all enveloped by and cover consumerism and early American consumerism.

During the 1960s Warhol began to make paintings of iconic American products such as Campbell’s Soup Cans and Coca Cola bottles, as well as painting celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Troy Donahue, Mohammed Ali and Elizabeth Taylor. Warhol started painting readily found, mass-produced objects, drawing on his extensive advertising background. He began producing prints using the silkscreen method and his work became controversial and popular. Many images were used by Warhol for his silkscreen prints, including dollar bills, celebrites and brand name products, as well as newspaper headlines or photographs of mushroom clouds, electric chairs and police dogs attacking civil rights protesters. Warhol also used Coca Cola bottles as subject matter for paintings. Warhol had a masterful knowledge of consumerism and was fully aware of the social trends at the time, this helped him to create some powerful designs and artwork, of which the subject matter was reinforced by consumer views at the time.

“What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coca-Cola, Liz Taylor drinks Coca-Cola, and just think, you can drink Coca-Cola, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the cokes are the same and all the cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.”

Warhol was criticised for capitalising on Consumerism, but Warhol made no secret of the open embrace he had of market and social culture. There was a massive change in the culture of the art world in the 1960s, consumerism has become king and Warhol was at the centre of it.


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