Coca-Cola Art: Santa Claus & Christmas Around the World

Santa Claus is without a doubt the most recognizable figure associated with Christmas. Santa stands for goodness, kindness and a generous, giving spirit. Today, Santa is an essential part of Christmas celebration, but the modern role and image of Santa Claus saw the light in early America of the 19th century. Dutch, British and American influences came together to give us the Santa Claus that we all know today: the jolly old man with his red & white costume, distributing gifts with his team of elves and reindeers.

The name Santa Claus was Anglicized from “Sinterklaas,” the Dutch word for Saint Nicholas, famous gift-giver and protector of children. It is believed the legend of Santa was brought to the New World by Christopher Columbus, who, upon arriving in Haiti, named a port after the patron saint. In 1621, when the Dutch landed on the New York island of Manhattan, they erected a statue of Saint Nicholas as a tribute to him for their successful journey.

In 1809, Washington Irving (a member of the NYC Historical Society which promoted St. Nicholas as its patron saint), created a tale of a chubby, pipe-smoking Saint Nicholas who rode a magic horse through the air visiting all houses in New York. The elfish figure was small enough to slide down chimneys with gifts for the good children and switches for the bad ones.
The works of writer Clement Clark Moore and the cartoons of Thomas Nast had also a big influence on the present form of Santa. The stories of St. Nicholas, Santa Clause and Kriss Kringle mingled to the new character of Santa Claus, the sum total of several stories, customs and beliefs.

Around the world, most people know Santa Claus and have local-language names for Santa – even if they come from countries where Christmas is not celebrated. Santa or similar gift givers go by these translations in the following countries: “Le Père Noël” (France and Québec), “Weihnachtsmann” or “Nikolaus” (Germany), Papá Noel” (Spain and Mexico), “Joulupukki” (Finland), “Julenissen” (Norway), “Juletomten” (Sweden), “Babadimri” (Albania), “Gaghant Baba” (Armenia), “” (Denmark), “Babbo Natale” (Italy), “Papai Noel” (Brazil), “Санта-Клаус” (Russia), “Ježíšek” (Czech Republic), “Święty Mikołaj” (Poland), “Pai Natal” (Portugal), “Moş Crăciun” (Romania), “Daidí na Nollag” (Ireland and Scottish Highlands), “Dyado Koleda” (Bulgaria), “Noel Baba” (Turkey), “Deda Mraz” (Serbia and Bosnia & Herzegovina). But our favorite is without a doubt the Afghanese name for Santa: “Baba Chaghaloo”. And the Chinese name also sounds very cool: Sheng Dan Lauw Yeh Yeh (phonetics of 圣诞老爷, which means “Christmas Old Man”).

In England Father Christmas is a stern version of Santa Claus who brings gifts on Christmas Eve. In France “Pere Noel” brings gifts to children on Christmas Eve. Children leave their shoes by the fireplace. In Germany families go to church on Christmas Eve. While they are at church the “Christkind” or Christ Child brings presents to their homes. In Switzerland the “Christkindl” or Christ Child brings the gifts. In some towns, Christkindl is an angel who comes down from heaven to give gifts.

The Dutch “Sinterklaas” arrives by boat from Spain. Children leave their shoe on the eve of 6th December filled with hay and carrots for the donkey which carries St. Nicholas’ pack of toys. Children get toys and candy. In Sweden, a gnome called “Juletomten” brings gifts in a sleigh driven by goats.
In Spanish-speaking countries such as Spain, Mexico, South America, children wait until January 6th for their presents. The Three Kings or Wise Men bring the gifts. Children put shoes by the front door to get their gifts. There is usually a big procession through the streets with floats for each of the Wise men. In Italy “La Befana” is a good witch who dresses all in black. Children leave their shoes by the fireplace on the eve of January 6th. Befana comes down the chimney on her broomstick to leave gifts. In Australia, Santa rides waterskis, has a white beard and red bathing suit and sometimes even has “bikini helpers”.

When the name Santa Claus is mentioned anywhere in America today, the image that invariably comes to mind is the one created by Haddon Sundblom for the Coca-Cola Company. From 1931 to 1964, Sundblom painted new Santa illustrations to use in the Coca-Cola Christmas advertising. Today, Coca-Cola continues to use Sundblom’s Santa Claus artworks. Many of his Santa paintings have toured museums and art institutes around the world. The smiling figure still appears regularly on posters and in magazines, newspapers, calendars, Christmas tree ornaments, serving trays and glassware.

Coca-Cola Christmas artworks by RockAndRoll Agency. Art Direction: Wouter De Coster. Brand Team Coca-Cola: Guy Rombouts & Bram Clincke. All Rights Reserved © The Coca-Cola Company.

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The Secret Secrets of Coca-Cola’s Hidden Formula Revealed

More than 120 years after pharmacist John Pemberton invented Coca-Cola, people from all over the world are still as much in love with this most famous of soft drinks as our great-grandparents were. Hold up a Coke and you proclaim all that’s best about the American way of life: Coca-Cola is a happy girl on a summer day, a vintage neon sign outside your hometown bar, first dates and shy kisses, the worldwide symbol of friendship…

Coca-Cola is also one of the most succesful companies and world’s most popular brand. Nothing can be so much a part of popular culture and everyday life, without sparking curious minds. Since the early days of the brand, people are especially fascinated by the Coca-Cola Company’s top-secret recipe for Coca-Cola. The true source of Coke’s unique flavor lies not in the coca/cola combination but in a special mix of oils and flavorings, including the mysterious ingredient known as “Merchandise 7X”, which no outsider has yet succeeded in identifying.

Asa Candler’s son, Charles Howard Candler, summed up the Coca-Cola mystique in these words: “One of the proudest moments of my life came when my father initiated me into the mysteries of the secret flavoring formula, inducting me into the “Holy of Holies”. No written formulae were shown. Containers of ingredients, from which the labels had been removed, were identified only by sight, smell, and remembering where each was put on the shelf. To be safe, my father stood by me several times while I compounded these distinctive flavors with particular reference to the order in which they should be measured out and mixed and I thereupon experienced the thrill of making up with his guidance a batch of Merchandise 7X.”

Coca-Cola’s formula is without a doubt one of the most closely-held trade secrets in modern business. Coca-Cola Argentina just released the animated commercial “Hidden Formula”, a funny take on Coke’s extremely valuable secret. Written, art directed & produced by Santo Buenos Aires for Coca-Cola Argentina, the TV & cinema spot reveals all about the secret secrets of Coca-Cola hidden formula. Enjoy!

Credits: Agency: Santo, Buenos Aires / General Creative Directors: Sebastián Wilhelm – Pablo Minces – Maximiliano Anselmo / Art Director: Maximiliano Anselmo / Director: David Daniels, Ray Di Carlo / Music: Swing Music / Copywriter: Pablo Minces / Agency Producer: Ezequiel Ortiz Production Company: Bent Image Lab, Portland / The Coca-Cola Company Project Lead: Marina Palma

Coca-Cola Santa Claus: Coke Christmas Art by Haddon Sundblom

Though he was not the first artist to create an image of Santa Claus for Coca-Cola advertising, Haddon Sundblom’s version became the standard for other Santa renditions and is the most-enduring and widespread depiction of the holiday icon to this day.
Coca-Cola’s Santa artworks would change the world’s perception of the North Pole’s most-famous resident forever and would be adopted by people around the world as the popular image of Santa.

In the 1920s, The Coca-Cola Company began to promote soft drink consumption for the winter holidays in U.S. magazines. The first Santa ads for Coke used a strict-looking Claus.
In 1930, a Coca-Cola advertised with a painting by Fred Mizen, showing a department store Santa impersonator drinking a bottle of Coke amid a crowd of shoppers and their children.
Not long after, a magical transformation took place. Archie Lee, then the agency advertising executive for The Coca-Cola Company, wanted the next campaign to show a wholesome Santa as both realistic and symbolic. In 1931, the Company commissioned Haddon Sundblom, a Michigan-born illustrator and already a creative giant in the industry, to develop advertising images using Santa Claus. Sundblom envisioned this merry gentleman as an opposite of the meager look of department store Santa imitators from early 20th century America.

Sundblom turned to Clement Moore’s classic poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (better known as “’Twas the Night Before Christmas”) for inspiration. The ode’s description of the jolly old elf inspired Sundblom to create an image of Santa that was friendly, warm and human, a big change from the sometimes-harsh portrayals of Santa up to that time. He painted a perfectly lovable patron saint of the season, with a white beard flowing over a long red coat generously outlined with fur, an enormous brass buckle fastening a broad leather belt, and large, floppy boots.

Sundblom’s Santa was very different from the other Santa artworks: he radiated warmth, reminded people of their favorite grandfather, a friendly man who lived life to the fullest, loved children, enjoyed a little honest mischief, and feasted on snacks left out for him each Christmas Eve.
Coca-Cola’s Christmas campaign featuring this captivating Santa ran year after year. As distribution of Coca-Cola and its ads spread farther around the world, Sundblom’s Santa Claus became more memorable each season, in more and more countries. The character became so likable, The Coca-Cola Company and Haddon Sundblom struck a partnership that would last for decades. Over a span of 33 years, Haddon Sundblom painted imaginative versions of the “Coca-Cola Santa Claus” for for Coke advertising, retail displays and posters.

Sundblom initially modeled Santa’s smiling face after the cheerful looks of a friend, retired salesman Lou Prentiss. “He embodied all the features and spirit of Santa Claus,” Sundblom said. “The wrinkles in his face were happy wrinkles.” After Prentiss passed away, the Swedish-American Sundblom used his own face as the ongoing reference for painting the now-enduring, modern image of Santa Claus.

In 1951, Sundblom captured the Coca-Cola Santa “making his list and checking it twice.” However, the ads did not acknowledge that bad children existed and showed pages of good boys and girls only.
Mischievous and magical, the Coca-Cola Santa was not above raiding the refrigerator during his annual rounds, stealing a playful moment with excited children and pets, or pausing to enjoy a Coca-Cola during stops on his one-night, worldwide trek. When air adventures became popular, Santa also could be caught playing with a toy helicopter around the tree.

Haddon Sundblom passed away in 1976, but The Coca-Cola Company continues to use a variety of his timeless depictions of Saint Nicholas in holiday advertising, packaging and other promotional activities. The classic Coca-Cola Santa images created by Sundblom are as ubiquitous today as the character they represent and have become universally accepted as the personification of the patron saint of both children and Christmas.

Source: The Coca-Cola Company

Guy Peellaert, The Michelangelo of Pop Art

Guy Peellaert, a major European Pop artist, died last week. The Brussels-born artist Guy Peellaert was a painter, illustrator, graphic artist and photographer, whose work has been exhibited around the world. He made his debut as a theatre decorator and as a comic strip artist and was one of the first artists to embrace the Pop Art movement that began in the late 1950s. Peellaert made no distinction between high art and low art. He approached the pop culture and mythology as a true fan. His style was influenced by comics, American Pop Art and psychedelic art. He painted using a very photo-realistic style and collage techniques. In 1974, Elle magazine called him the “the Michelangelo of Pop”.

“Tina Turner” by Guy Peellaert

Peellaert was born in Brussels in 1934 into an aristocratic family. He left home at an early age, and for many years refused to have any contact with his father. As a teenager, he studied fine arts in the Belgian capital and found refuge in the music of Nat King Cole, George Gershwin and Duke Ellington. He also devoured Amercian and British pop culture, film noir and pulp literature. Just as his example, the Britsih Pop artist Peter Blake, Peellaert hoarded and archived music magazines, books and pop memorabilia. He was one of the very first comic artists to process pop-art influences in his stories. His first comic strip, “Les Aventures de Jodelle”, was published in 1966. The psychedelic cartoon character Jodelle was inspired by he French popstar Sylvie Vartan. Peellart’s second comic strip heroine, “Pravda, La Survireuse”, made her debut in 1968 and was a brunette modelled on the chanteuse Françoise Hardy.

“Pravda & Coca-Cola”, limited edition silkprints by Guy Peellaert.

Rolling Stone Mick Jagger, one of the proud owners of Peellaert’s art.

In the late Sixties, Peellaert moved to Paris, where he worked variously in advertising, set design for the casino and the Crazy Horse nightclub, film and television. He also published a couple of experimental books, “Carashi!”, which consisted of redesigned photos, and “Bye, bye, bye Baby, bye, bye’”, which used a hyper-realistic style.
Peellaert quickly became a popular chronicler of rock and roll. He created amazing tableaux featuring rock luminaries in paintings that captured their personae in a way that photos never could. His paintings tapped right into our subconscious fantasies of rock stars’ secret selves & lives and earned him international cult status.

“Jimi Hendrix” by Guy Peellaert

Peellaert’s work became very visible in the 1970s, especially his book of rock star portraits “Rock Dreams”, created together with British rock writer Nik Cohn. With its fantastical and iconic images of the giants of rock and roll, the book served as a record of rock’s golden years. In a series of 125 paintings, Peellaert painted his heroes in situations echoing their mythical status or playing on their most famous lyrics. “Rock Dreams”, created together with British rock writer Nik Cohn. Published in 1974, the book had a huge impact when it was first published and went on to sell more than one million copies worldwide and established Peellaert as a major international artist. Many of the original artworks were bought by Jack Nicholson. John Lennon framed the cover of the book, which depicted him sitting at a lunch-counter with Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger.

“Elvis Presley’s Last Supper” with guests Cliff Richard, Tom Jones and Eddie Cochran, feasting on burgers and drinking Coca-Cola.

“Frank Sinatra” – Peellaert pictured Sinatra as a newspaper cutting. The “Frankie Goes Hollywood” headline later inspired singer Holly Johnson for the name of his band, Frankie Goes To Hollywood.

“The Beatles”, the Fab Four chased by a bobby in the streets of Liverpool.


“Otis Redding” by Guy Peellaert

“Superstar Bob”, Bob Dylan in the back of a limousine.

“The Velvet Underground” by Guy Peellaert

“Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young” by Guy Peellaert

Soon after the success of “Rock Dreams”, Peellaert created the cover of The Rolling Stones album “It’s Only Rock ’n’ Roll”, David Bowie’s “Diamond Dogs”. Many people know these classic album sleeves even if they don’t recognize the name of the artist who painted it.

“It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll”, Album cover art for The Rolling Stones by Guy Peellaert.

“Diamond Dogs” artwork for David Bowie.

Peellaert also designed striking posters for a number of iconic films, including Wenders “Paris, Texas” and “Wings of Desire” and Robert Altman’s Short Cuts. His most famous film poster design is probably the one he did for Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver.

In the eighties, Guy Peellaert embarked on an extensive project with the American author Michael Herr, “The Big Room”, a homage to Las Vegas which conceived the city, in Peelleart’s words, as “a big hotel lounge where everybody comes in, out, with their luggage, their problems and their dreams”. It would take 11 years to complete. In 1999, Peellaert and Cohn teamed up again for “20th Century Dreams”, a surrealistic “alternative history” of the 20th century.

“Little Mockstory” – Elvis Presley in police uniform busting through the dormitory door of a pot-smoking Bill Clinton.

“La Bonne Trajectoire”. Genius Albert Eintein shows baseball legend Babe Ruth the perfect swing.

“Caesar’s Palace” – Famous painting of boxer Muhammad Ali, preparing for a title fight.

Guy Peellaert lost his own fight with cancer this week, he died on November 17th, 2008 in Paris aged 74. In 2003, Peellaert told Beaux Arts Magazine: “I’m not bothered about death. Not having any passion while you’re alive, that’s the terrible thing. That’s why “Rock Dreams” still works today. Emotions keep you alive. Rock will always represent the extravagant, the flashy, the fantasy. These pictures are a memento to that dream.”

For a complete overview of Peellaert’s work, exhibitions and bio, you can visit his website.

“Andy Mouse – New Coke” by Keith Haring, A Tribute to Andy Warhol, Mickey Mouse & Coca-Cola

“When I want to Keith Haring’s studio, I saw genius. I saw someone with a signature style – a style he seemed to be born with. Haring seemed to me to be like Andy Warhol, someone who knew that what he was doing was important, and he didn’t care if he worked fourteen or sixteen hours a day. His work was his entire world”.
(Henry Geldzahler about Keith Haring; “Keith Haring – The Authorized Biography” by John Gruen, A Fireside Book, 1991).

Pop artist and icon Keith Haring, much like his artistic idol Andy Warhol, used bright colors, bold lines and simple subject matters. He developed a unique visual lexicon. Essential concepts (birth, death, love, and war) were conveyed by the simplest of symbols: energy, waves, hearts, glowing babies (his most famous life giving symbol), barking dogs, and antic “everyman” figures.

Urban street culture became a defining influence on art, fashion, and music of the 1980’s, in particular in New York. Keith Haring was preeminent among the young artists, filmmakers, performers, and musicians whose work responded to these impulses and helped shape the culture of that decade.
Haring’s phenomenal rise from a talented graffiti artist, whose “radiant baby” became a worldwide symbol of 1980s pop culture, remains arguably as relevant today as when it was created despite being universally recognized as representative of that era. Painting with artistic and childlike exuberance, his talent was first recognized on subway platforms where he drew his trademark chalk figures and murals for all of New York to see. “When I did a drawing and went back a week later, the drawing was still there. It was neither smudged nor did anyone try to clean it off. I mean, it seemed to have this protective power that prevented people from destroying them. Another thing that I realized how many people were seeing these things. Within a week, when I’d be doing another drawing, people would come up to me and say, “So you’re the guy who did these drawings!” Because, see, there was never a signature. Nobody knew who was doing this stuff. And I started to realize the power and the potential of what I was doing.”

“It’s treating Warhol like he was part of American culture, like Mickey Mouse was.”
(Daniel Drenger, “Art and Life: An Interview with Keith Haring,” Columbia Art Review, Spring 1988).

Executed in 1985, and painted during an extremely fertile time for Keith Haring, Andy Mouse pays tribute to his close friend, hero and mentor, Andy Warhol, to whom Haring was introduced following his second exhibition in New York at the Tony Shafrazi Gallery in 1984. This historic encounter between Warhol and Haring brought together their mutual fascination with an “Art for Everybody,” and an admiration for Walt Disney, a man who inspired both artists. A friendship that developed almost immediately, Haring often visited Andy at the Factory and would trade works with him. Drawing on Warhol’s legacy, and similar to Disney, Haring created a world for both adults and children, in which art became a visual vocabulary and one that could be shared with everyone, as seen here on the animated canvas of Andy Mouse. Believing that cartoon figures could be an component of fine art, and regarding Andy Warhol and Walt Disney as heroes, Haring’s exuberant and enchanting Andy Mouse bonded together the work of these three significant artists.

Adaptating of one the most internationally recognized and celebrated cartoon characters, Haring presents the viewer with his hybrid Andy Mouse cartoon against the backdrop of a New Coke label; the product introduced the same year Andy Mouse was executed. This large-scale piece, evoking his wall drawings and subway posters, skillfully combines three different symbols of commerce: Coca-Cola, Mickey Mouse and Andy Warhol – with a deceptively simple palette of red, yellow, white and black, reintroducing the commercial colors of 1960s Pop Art.

Monumental in scale, Andy Mouse originated from a new body of work in which Haring focused on his passion for both drawing and mass production. Sharing with Warhol an understanding of the effect of mass media’s visual dynamics, Haring intuitively understood that good mass media imagery could be seen at any size and still make a strong visual impact. The use of scale that typifies mass media imagery is atypical of fine art, yet it runs through most of Haring’s art and appears as a common thread amongst his works.

Unlike the black line Haring frequently drew to define space in his work, the caricature of Andy Mouse is framed by the hard-edged white line of the New Coke label. By appropriating this brand logo and combining it with the repetitive use of the dollar sign, Haring brilliantly manipulates the concept of Pop into his own unique hand- drawn style.
Both Haring and Warhol liked Coca-Cola a lot. Warhol once described Coca-Cola, often served at Haring’s openings, as a highlight of democratic equality. Swept up into the Pop Art scene himself and endeavoring to present iconic images in a hand-crafted way, Haring blends this classic symbol of American mass culture into his own hand- painted canvas in a playful and energetic way.

Andy Mouse is a brilliant culmination of Haring’s entire oeuvre. Its bold graphic quality, complex composition and glorious color are high water marks for the artist. Andy Mouse’s large scale and brilliant postmodern referencing of Pop icons such as Coke and Mickey Mouse – by way of Andy Warhol – mark this as a seminal Haring work which remains relevant to contemporary art today.

By the time that Haring (1958-1990), a major supporter of good causes and Aids research and awareness, died at age 31, his work had moved from underground New York to the most prestigious galleries and museums around the world. Just like his hero Andy Warhol, Keith Haring has left a huge impact on the Pop Art culture world. Even though the master behind the creations has gone nearly two decades ago, Keith Haring’s art and messages are still alive.

Sources: Keith Haring, exhibition catalogue, Dexia Banque Int. à Luxembourg, 2007; Keith Haring, exhibition catalogue, Musée Art Contemporain Lyon, 2008; Christies auction catalogue, 2008; The Authorized Biography” by John Gruen, A Fireside Book, 1991.

Andy Warhol, A Visual & Conceptual Multimedia Genius

When the young Andy Warhol graduated from college in June 1949, he immediately moved to New York. It took him only three months to begin a brilliant career as a commercial artist. Appropriately enough, Warhol’s first assignment was to illustrate an article in Glamour magazine, “Success is a Job in New York”.
Influenced by the early work of pop artists such as Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist and Tom Wesselmann, Warhol quickly made the decision to take the leap into “real art”.
In the early sixties, Warhol had become a commercial artist with painterly ambitions – asked by a dealer why his works were smudged, he replied, “But you have to drip. Otherwise they think you’re not sensitive”.
To Warhol, it was a matter of no small interest that the avant-garde could come so close to his own world of commercial art.

Warhol’s early comic strip works were clearly inspired by the work of Roy Lichtenstein, but Warhol quickly found his own style. His iconic portraits of Dollar signs and postage stamps, Coca-Cola bottles, cans and signs; Campbell’s, Mott’s, Kellog’s and Del Monte’s packagings; celebrities such as Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor and Jackie Kennedy; tabloids and newspapers such as Daily News and New York Post as well as his recreations of violent imagery from race riots to car crashes, quickly earned the young artist a reputation. Warhol also moved into experimental filmmaking, publishing and multimedia ventures, all the while adding fuel to the Warhol myth.

In 1966, Warhol began presenting The Velvet Underground, the legendary underground band fronted by Lou Reed, John Cale & Nico as part of his traveling multimedia show called the “Exploding Plastic Inevitable”. A year later, he produced their debut, The Velvet Underground & Nico. The album cover designed by Warhol is so iconic that people often refer to it as the “Warhol LP” or the “Banana album”.

In art, even the recent past is another country. To experience a frisson of how it felt when Pop Art started to be made, felt and understood radically differently in the early 1960s, visit the current exposition “Andy Warhol: Other Voices, Other Rooms” at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, USA. Running from Sept 13, 2008 until Feb 15, 2009, “Other Voices, Other Rooms” (named for the Truman Capote novel of the same name) sheds a new light on the celebrated pop artist and focuses on the ideas at the heart of Warhol’s work from the 1950’s through to the 1980’s: embracing consumer culture, exploring sexual identity, challenging social conventions, and erasing distinctions between high and low culture.

This travelling show of ultimate Andy Warhol trivia, is organised by Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and Moderna Museet Stockholm in collaboration with The Andy Warhol Museum and presents Warhol’s films, screen-tests, videos and television programmes, which combined with extraordinary archive material, seminal paintings and installations, illuminates his creative process.

Besides Warhol’s film and video work, the exhibit focuses also on less known aspects of the artist by showing some miscellaneous extras. Warhol was obsessive about collecting and on display here are a few of the 600 time capsules that he made in the 1960s, self-consciously establishing a repository of the essential elements of the cultural Zeitgeist that swirled around him. These took the form of cardboard boxes full of old postcards, Christmas cards, telephone notes, photographs, cinema tickets and the odd T-shirt. There are covers of his magazine Interview. There are books, contact sheets, photomat strips and wonderful expanses of his wallpaper: Chairman Mao, cows and Warhol’s face repeated hundreds of times in bright colours.

Wexner Center director Sherri Geldin: “Upon visiting this astounding and ingenious exhibition in Amsterdam late last year, I immediately set the wheels in motion to bring it to the Wexner Center. It explores afresh the remarkable legacy of an artist who utterly transformed the cultural landscape of his own time, but also foretold with uncanny prescience today’s media-obsessed society”.

The mix of celebrity and the underground, reality and artifice, a culture without hierarchies of image or thought, the subtle eroticisation of almost anything he touched: Andy Warhol presented a visual and conceptual overload which emphasises that, inescapably and from all sides, Warhol is our contemporary. “Andy Warhol: Other Voices, Other Rooms” illuminates his creative process, sheds new light on his work and explores his genius for discerning the way pop culture penetrates our lives.

You can find more info on the Wexner website.

The Enduring Fame of Andy Warhol

Warhol’s influence on society has steadily grown in the two decades since his death in 1987 and has yet not reached its zenith. Warhol’s ideas were “far out” during his lifetime but are coming more and more to resemble life as we know it. Over the course of 30 years, more and more people have understood that Warhol’s
art opened up opened up a territory as large as the world itself: a large and fascinating universe including Hollywood stars, Coca-Cola bottles, underground movies and music, mysteries and terrors, humor and wit.

Tom Armstrong, the first director of Pittsburgh’s Warhol museum, describes the “Pope of Pop” as a key figure in contemporary culture: “More than any other figure of his time, Warhol challenged our way of thinking about art. Andy was a painter, a sculptor, a graphic artist, a filmmaker, a music producer, an author, a publisher. The scope of his creative activity was extraordinary and it touched on the entire range of popular culture”.

In the foreword of the book “Andy Warhol Portraits”, American art historian and curator Robert Rosenblum stated that this was only the beginning of the story: “Warhol quickly emerged as a leader of the Pop Art movement. His work provided an instantly intelligible chronicle of what mattered most to people, from the dead of Marilyn Monroe to the ascendancy of Red China.”
Rosenblum compares Warhol’s art to a March of Time newsreel: “An abbreviated visual anthology of the most conspicuous headlines, mythic creatures, personalities, movie and music stars, tragedies, artworks, even ecological problems of recent decades. Everything and everybody is here – with infinitely more speed and wallop than a complete run of New York Times on microfilm: airplane crashes and volcanic eruptions, electric chairs, President Nixon, and the Thirteen Most Wanted Men, giant pandas, the hammer-and-sickle, transvestites, Santa Claus and Raphael’s Sistine Madonna”.

Warhol’s greatest gift was probably his observational ability. From his ubercool stance as the silent watcher, Warhol took it all in and saw it for how it truly was.
Warhol’s art reflected the contemporary culture of the United States, and therefore of a world culture that was coming more and more under the American influence. He addressed the changes brought about in our society through mass productions and mass communications in a way that was daring and yet instantly accessible.
By creating artworks inspired by consumer goods as Coca-Cola bottles, Heinz boxes or Campbell’s Soup cans, Warhol presented the world with genuine philosophical challenges.

For the first time in ages, painting was addressing the world at large, and the world knew it was being addressed. But there was a second level to the mass media controversy: not what Warhol painted, but how. Some of his first Pop artworks were made by hand and showed evidence of great skill.

In his later works, Warhol’s hand became less evident. To produce his pictures of Marilyn and Elvis, he made silkscreens print of photographs, which he colored with the aid of stencils. This method offended art critics who wanted to see traces of the artist’s personality on the canvas, or proof of his hard work. But that objection seemed to miss the point.

Warhol had adopted the methods of mass production to make images of celebrities who were themselves mass produced. Marilyn Monroe existed not only as a flesh-and-blood person but as millions of pictures in magazines and newspapers, on album covers, movie screens and film posters. She was infinitely reproducible.

Warhol also understood America’s fascination with celebrity. The “celebrity concept” had an incredible impact on American culture and it quickly became the N°1 topic for Warhol and the Pop Art movement. By becoming a true celebrity himself, something that hadn’t been done before by any US artists, Warhol invented a new approach to America’s fascination with fame.
Andy Warhol’s life is a great example of somebody who courted fame and publicity, achieved it, yet never really gave much away about his “real” personality. Just as is the case with Coca-Cola’s secret formula, the public was really fascinated by the high level of secrecy Warhol managed to surround himself with.

Warhol had been obsessed with fame ever since his childhood when he collected autographs from stars, but what fascinated him the most about the subject was the difference between truth and reality in the world of Hollywood. Warhol subscribed to the postmodern concept of truth as a subjective value and adored the tabloids. In his book “The Philosophy of Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again”, Warhol talks a lot about fame: “A good reason for being famous is so you can read all the big magazines and know everybody in all the stories.”
Warhol even created his own magazine in 1969, Interview, which he claimed he started so that he and his friends would always be invited to the movie premieres and best parties. And of course, starstruck as he was, Warhol always liked to hang around with the popsingers, actors & actresses or other superstars.

Warhol’s most famous quotes are on the subject of fame and the fifteen minutes he felt everyone would get. When he made this statement, it may have sounded like a throwaway soundbite but fact is that in today’s world of cross-genre multi-media, obsessive celebrity madness, reality TV with it’s non-stop “new star” bombardments, Warhol’s philosophy has never been so closely felt.

Andy Warhol’s 15 minutes of fame run on …

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