"Many an afternoon at lunchtime Mom would open a can of Campbell’s for me, because that’s all we could afford. I love it to this day.”
Andy Warhol

P reviously in the esteemed collection of cultural pioneer and entrepreneur NIGO® and acquired from Sotheby's Hong Kong's NIGO®️ ONLY LIVES TWICE auction in 2014, Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup Cans encapsulate the charisma and gravitas of one of the most iconic Pop symbols of twentieth-century American art.

Lots 6 and 7 displayed in NIGO®️’S atelier in Tokyo ©️ Kozo Takayama

Charged with formal elegance, conceptual rigor and personal significance, Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans encapsulate the charisma and gravitas of one of the most iconic Pop symbols of twentieth-century American art. Few other images so clearly evoke the modernity of post-war America, as consumerism exploded and the commercial image of the American Dream swept the nation. Print and television advertising, industrial production, and the burgeoning middle class transformed America into a public ripe for consumption of material goods, art, and culture. As the trajectory of painting broke away from the fetishism of artistic gesture that had defined Abstract Expressionism, Warhol pioneered his own brand of Pop art that incisively challenged the visual culture of a society saturated with images and driven by consumerism. The artist was interested above all else in mechanized means of mass-production. The universal appeal of the Campbell’s Soup Cans, however, is met with a suggestion of personal significance; some shred of childhood memory: “Many an afternoon at lunchtime”, the artist recalled, “Mom would open a can of Campbell’s for me, because that’s all we could afford, I love it to this day” (the artist cited in Victor Bockris, The Life and Death of Andy Warhol, London 1998, p. 144). As the years passed the Campbell Soup Cans would come to gain a quasi-religious status, perfectly distilling the central tenets of his oeuvre – commercialism, ubiquity, beauty – and irrevocably shifting the course of American art.

Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the USA in 1928, Warhol first moved to New York City in 1949 where he began a career in magazine illustration and advertising – an experience that was to prove invaluable in shaping his future aesthetic as an artist. Warhol began exhibiting his work during the 1950s, but it was in 1961 that Leo Castelli and Irving Blum first discovered his Campbell's Soup Can paintings, on separate visits to his Lexington Avenue studio. His first significant foray into the world of Pop art, the Campbell’s Soup series was first displayed at Walter Hopps and Blum’s Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles, in July 1962. Warhol exhibited thirty-two canvases in the show, each measuring twenty by sixteen inches: one for each flavour of soup manufactured by the food conglomerate at that time. The revolutionary works were displayed on small white shelves that ran along the perimeter of the gallery in a manner that seemed to intimate the shelves of a grocery store. While this first show was met with little commercial success, Warhol’s haute treatment of the consumerist mundane sparked lively debate in critical circles and set the groundwork for the dominance of Pop art in the coming decade. Indeed, the entire show is now housed as a collective in the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Through this exhibition, and its unabashed idolatry of the everyday object, Warhol established his own artistic language, and positioned himself alongside Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, and Tom Wesselmann at the very forefront of the Pop movement.

Appropriated, re-contextualised and repurposed, the Cambell’s Soup Can motif would become the world famous, quintessential icon of Warholian Pop. As Henry Geldzahler recalls, “The Campbell’s Soup Can was the Nude Descending a Staircase of pop art. Here was an image that became an overnight rallying point for the sympathetic and the bane of the hostile. Warhol captured the imagination of the media and the public as had no other artist of his generation. Andy was pop and pop was Andy” (Henry Geldzahler cited in Victor Bockris, The Life and Death of Andy Warhol, London, 1998, pp. 159-60). Opening up a dialogue between the viewer and the composition, the Campbell’s Soup Cans heroically engaged in a loaded semiotic game that would forever blur the boundary between art and commerce. In this subversion, the notion of authorship becomes obscured and the work of art begins to exist beyond the limits of its canvas. Recognising the vast influence this series would have on the canon of art history, the artist later proclaimed, “I should have just done the Campbell’s Soups and kept on doing them” (the artist cited in Annette Michelson, Ed., Andy Warhol, Cambridge, Massachusetts 2001, p. 124).


安迪・沃荷的《金寶湯罐頭》既是形態表現的極致,又是概念藝術的突破,於藝術家個人而言,更是一幅極具個人意義的作品。作為二十世紀美國普普藝術史上的里程碑,此作堪稱少數能精準表達出美國現代思想的作品之一。美國戰後經歷巨變,消費主義橫掃社會各階層。在此背景下衍生出的「美國夢」,以商品化的姿態,降臨印刷、電視廣告、工業製品,以及正在掘起的中產生活之中。當時,消費主義正火速席捲物質、藝術和文化各生活層面。抽象表現主義反覆強調的繪畫動態,在藝術界亦逐漸失去迴響。沃荷憑著別樹一幟的普普藝術風格,企圖向被消費主義沖昏頭腦、被圖像主導的社會宣戰,他對機械化的大量生產模式尤其感興趣。《金寶湯罐頭》固然能觸動全球萬千觀者的心靈,但畫中蘊含藝術家的兒時片段,意義同樣重要。沃荷憶述:「以前,我媽媽常替我準備一罐金寶湯作午餐,因為那是我們當時唯一能負擔的。至今我仍然鍾愛它」(引述自藝術家,維克多・博克里斯(Victor Bockris),《安迪・沃荷的生與死》,倫敦,1998年,頁144)。《金寶湯罐頭》嘲謔「商業」、「普及」、「美學」等概念,領導美國藝壇後來的發展。時至今日,此作歷盡時間的考驗,穩坐藝術史中獨一無二的寶座。

1928年,沃荷生於美國賓夕法尼亞州匹茲堡;1949年,他首次來到紐約市,並開展其雜誌插圖、廣告工作等事業。這段經歷深深影響他後來的美學觀念。至於他在藝術方面的發展,雖然沃荷早於50年代已開始展出自己的創作,但《金寶湯罐頭》系列,要到1961年才開始獲得賞識。當時,李歐・卡斯特尼(Leo Castelli)和歐文・布魯姆(Irving Blum)正在探訪沃荷在萊辛頓大道的工作室,二人獨具慧眼,看到沃荷的潛能,並成為他的伯樂。1962年7月,沃荷32幅作品首次於華特・霍普斯(Walter Hopps)與歐文・布魯姆在洛杉磯的弗魯斯畫廊展出,這是他晉身普普藝術世界的開端。展出作品每幅20 x 16吋,各繪有一款金寶湯的口味。這批劃時代的作品展示在畫廊四邊的白色小櫃上,猶如雜貨店裡的貨物。雖然從商業角度看來,沃荷的首場展覽不算成功,但他對消費主義背後乏味生活的表達卻一針見血,引來藝壇激烈的迴響,甚至為日後普普藝術打下了紮實的基礎。值得一提的是,整批展覽作品現藏紐約現代藝術博物館。藉著這場1962年展覽,沃荷將日常生活昇華為藝術。憑著獨一無二的藝術語言,沃荷足以與羅伊・李奇登斯坦、克萊斯・歐登伯格以及湯姆・衛索曼等普普藝術先鋒們看齊。

《金寶湯罐頭》涉及「挪用」、「重配」、「重塑」等概念,成為藝術家經典普普藝術風格的代名詞。如亨利.格爾德札勒(Henry Geldzahler)憶述:「《金寶湯罐頭》猶如普普藝術中的《下樓梯的裸女》。此作一夜成名,是為藝術家創作核心的典範,對喜歡沃荷的人如是,對厭惡沃荷的人亦如是。媒體與社會各界,無一不受沃荷所著迷。他的地位在同代藝術家中無人能及。安迪就是普普,普普就是安迪」(引述自亨利.格爾德札勒,維克多・博克里斯,《安迪・沃荷的生與死》,倫敦,1998年,頁159至160)。由此可見,作品成功開闢出一條接連觀者與構圖的嶄新之道。此通道不乏藝術家精心策劃的符號學把戲,直接挑戰藝術與商業之間模糊的界線。它甚至顛覆了我們對藝術固有的認知——藝術家對自己作品的話語權變得薄弱,而畫作本身亦開始逃離畫布的限制。沃荷固然十分瞭解自己此系列在藝術史上舉足輕重的地位。他之後更揚言:「我其實應該只集中金寶湯系列,並一直堅持下去。」(引述自藝術家,安妮特・米歇爾森(Annette Michelson)編,《安迪・沃荷》,劍橋,麻省,2001年,頁124)