If you’re a fan of comic books and art, you are most likely familiar with the pop art movement. This post-war art movement first emerged from the United Kingdom and the US in the 1950s. It emerged as a contrast to traditional fine arts and abstract expressionism. Because of its colorful and “rebellious” imagery, pop art moved to mainstream media such as advertising and comic books. Of course, one of the most prominent figures in pop art is Andy Warhol whose name is practically synonymous with the movement. His iconic pieces inspired many artists and happen to be some of the most expensive paintings ever sold. Here are some of the best Andy Warhol works, most of which probably already look familiar.
Who knew that the most iconic images of Coca-Cola came from Andy Warhol? Warhol’s relationship with the brand started in 1962. Since then, he worked on a few Coca-Cola-inspired works including Green Coca-Cola and Coca-Cola 3. In his book, he says, “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.” I don’t know what it is about this drink that drew Warhol to making it the star of some of his earliest works. Maybe he just loved drinking this sugary drink, but one thing is for sure, he definitely changed history with it.
This painting represents a lot about the US and China relations in 1972 when President Nixon ended years of diplomatic isolation between the two countries. Inspired by this historical event, Warhol took his trademark silkscreen techniques and created one of the most recognized portraits in the world. With its flamboyant colors and dramatic marks, Andy Warhol interprets this work as a representation of political propaganda and capitalist advertising. In fact, Mao actually became an important work of art during China’s Cultural Revolution.
The great thing about pop art movement is that it takes the most mundane things, and turns them into art. Warhol’s Banana is a perfect example of this. This innovative and controversial work of art is the cover for The Velvet Underground & Nico’s debut album. I say innovative because it features an image of a banana covered by a banana skin sticker that people can peel off to reveal the fruit underneath. Above the banana is the text “Peel Slowly and See”, inviting fans of the band to an interactive artistic experience.
One of the most iconic Andy Warhol paintings is this of Marilyn Monroe soon after her death in 1962. The use of two contrasting silver canvases (one colorful and one in black and white) show the two conflicting lives of the celebrity – a diptych to be exact. It tragically represents her public life and her private life.
Campbell’s Soup Cans (1962)
Andy Warhol is popular for his commentary on consumer culture and mass media. This was evident in his Campbell’s Soup Cans. When this work first came out, it was displayed as 32 canvases placed together on shelves sort of like products in a grocery aisle. Each canvas represented all 32 flavors of Campbell’s soups at the time, though at first glance they all appear to be the same can. This repetitive imagery could also represent the artist’s reason for choosing this product. “I used to have the same lunch every day, for twenty years, I guess, the same thing over and over again,” he said in an interview.
Eight Elvises (1963)
In 2009, this painting was reportedly worth $100 million, making it one of the most expensive paintings ever sold. This painting features Warhol’s fascination with repetition with Elvis dressed in a cowboy outfit, pointing a gun towards viewers. The image is reproduced eight times with an overlapping style, creating the sensation of movement across the canvas. This is definitely one of the best Andy Warhol works ever.
The Shoes Series (1981)
Shoes played a vital role in Warhol’s career when he used to create footwear advertisements in the 1950s. His love for shoes and feet resurfaced in the 1980s in a series of screenprints. He also incorporated the use of diamond dust, giving his works a shimmery, glamorous effect. One of the most notable is an emerald green shoe floating in a starry night sky.
Since he was eight years old, Warhol was already a fan of comic books, particularly Superman. Comic books served as his escape from being bedridden due to an autoimmune disease. As a young boy, he found hope in Clark Kent’s journey from underdog to superhero. Who knew that later on in his life, he would be auctioning off this piece for $200,000, right?
Reigning Queens (1985)
This piece of art features four ruling queens at the time it was made: Queen Elizabeth II of England, Queen Beatriz of Netherlands, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, and Queen Ntombi Twala of Swaziland. In 2012, Warhol’s wish of being as famous as Queen Elizabeth II came true when the queen herself bought four of Warhol’s portraits of her. Talk about making it, right?