Warhol's Campbell's Soup Cans
1998
1998
2006
2008-2009
Remix: Andy Warhol
Digital photo prints
2009

Statement

This project consists of two sets of printed digital photographs, displayed as in a gallery exhibition. The photographs are images of Andy Warhol’s Gold Marilyn Monroe, and his set of 32 Campbell’s soup cans, downloaded from Flickr, using the search terms “MoMA and Warhol,” and printed, unaltered, at a photo lab. The prints were then mounted on foamcore and the final images were selected from the original pool and arranged based on primarilyaesthetic criteria. All of the images were used under Creative Commons licenses, all requiring attribution and most requiring non-commercial use. Some of the photos cannot be altered, under the terms of the license the photographer chose.

On recent trips to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, I’ve noticed that many visitors simply go from piece to piece taking photos on their camera phones and point-and-shoot digital cameras. The ubiquity and convenience of these devices has made this practice much more widespread than it had been five or ten years ago, and the museum’s policy of not accepting cameras into coat check probably encourages the behavior. Based on the types of devices people were using to take the pictures, and their technique, I assumed that the photos were poor quality, much lower than what would be available from official sources, such as the museum’s publications and web site. What is the motivation for taking these photographs of the artwork?

This piece interrogates the contemporary consumption of art, and in particular art from the recent past, which is considered modern but not contemporary. Museum visitors' practices seem to indicate that modern art has become a photo opportunityfor tourists, a sightseeing destination in New York not unlike the Statue of Liberty or the Brooklyn Bridge. The photos are the evidence or documentation of the experience with the artwork, and become the user’s artifact or property, their own copy of the artwork. However, each of these copies shows the different perspectives of the photographers, and the level of value that they take away from the artwork. The quality of the technique of the artist (Warhol) is mostly gone, and the value is mostly in the record of the experience.

Using Warhol’s work as the basis of this piece fits neatly as an evolution of Warhol’s practice. In The Contingent Object of Contemporary Art, Martha Buskirk documents how Warhol’s work was generated from the work of other artists, in particular how his Flowers pieces was based on a Patricia Caulfield photograph, and Warhol originally did not credit her. Subsequently, Warhol gave the screens to another artist, Sturtevant, who created copies of the pieces and exhibited them as Warhol Flowers. Most of Warhol’s best known pieces, including these Campbell’s soup cans, were based on designs, photographs or drawings of other artists, and quite famously, he used other artists to actually physically produce much of his work. Amateur photographers capture images of Warhol's pieces, now relegated to the institutional setting of the museum, and post their photographs of it online. By collecting the work together, this piece transforms the individual pieces, which are, for their photographers, a record of their perception of Warhol's work, into a meta-narrative about the practice of perceiving and consuming modern art.

EXHIBITIONS

Shadowshop, SFMOMA, 2010

References

Buskirk, Martha. The Contingent Object of Contemporary Art. (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005)
http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?ttype=2&tid=10495

Hainley, Bruce. Erase and Rewind. Frieze, June-August 2000. 53.
http://www.frieze.com/issue/article/erase_and_rewind/

Copies of the photos
Campbell's Soup Cans »
Gold Marilyn Monroe »

Photo Credits and Links »

Copyright © Derek Chung