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The Art of Soup

Meryle Evans / November 2012

New York City—Memorializing your lunch on canvas is not every painter’s pathway to success, but for pioneer pop artist Andy Warhol, Campbell’s tomato soup, his daily midday repast for 20 years, launched a career that brought him enduring fame and fortune. Fifty years ago, in 1962, the 34 year old neophyte artist painted all 32 varieties of Campbell’s soup for his first solo exhibition at a gallery in Los Angeles, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Now, to celebrate the golden anniversary of his silk-screen paintings, the Campbell Soup Company has introduced a limited edition (1.2 million) of four cans of Campbell condensed tomato soup, with specially designed boldly colored labels that reflect Warhol’s vibrant pop art style. They are sold exclusively at Target stores for 75 cents apiece. Each label bears a likeness of the artist, his signature, and one of his notable quotes, such as “In the future, everybody will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” The limited edition cans were produced under license from The Andy Warhol Foundation, a not-for-profit corporation that promotes visual arts.

When the Campbell’s brand initially appeared in Warhol’s artwork, the company had reservations, but later embraced the artist, sending him cases of soup, commissioning two paintings, and establishing an Andy Warhol Scholarship Fund at the New York Art Academy. Now Campbell’s has partnered with the Metropolitan Museum of Art to sponsor educational programs related to the museum’s recently opened exhibit, “Regarding Warhol: Sixty Artists, Fifty Years” on display until December 31.

For a preview lunch at the museum, several new versions of Campbell’s tomato soup, including harvest orange tomato and sun-ripened yellow tomato, were paired with grilled cheese sandwiches and salads. Speaking at the lunch, Campbell board member Archie Van Beuren recalled that his great-great-grandfather, John Dorrance, invented the canned condensed soup process in 1897. Now, he said, instead of the 32 varieties on the shelf in 1962, there are 81. And the best sellers? Chicken noodle, cream of mushroom, and, of course, tomato.