The Origin of Pop Art
Pop Art („Popular Art”) as an art genre, had its origins, independent from another, in the 1950s within the United Kingdom and the United States. The british variant was coined by frugality and the post war renunciation of consumption, standing in heavy contrast to the popularity of Media and goods coming from America. In the USA Pop Art resulted from an ever growing confidence and understanding of Americans regarding european Art.
Many art historians consider the englishman Richard Hamilton as the founder of Pop Art. His Work „ from 1956 is seen to be the first Pop Art work ever. Hardly recognizable as Pop Art to an untrained eye, the collage was to be understood as an attack on the society of the time, which was dominated by advertising and consumerism, and laid the foundation for an entire art epoch. Hamilton's work also served as the motif for the "This is Tomorrow" exhibition poster, an event organized by the British Independent Group that transferred advertising and mass media into the concept of art.
Pop Art gained international recognition in the following years and celebrated its peak in the 1960s in the USA. There, Pop Art was seen as a counter-design to the abstract expressionism that predominated in Europe. Icons such as Andy Warhol were very present in the global art scene until the 1980s and continue to influence neo-pop artists such as Takashi Murakami today.
What defines Pop Art
In Pop Art, everyday things and objects, logos, comics, films or advertising materials are depicted recognizably but alienated. The motifs used are torn from their original context, isolated and thus changed in their meaning. Pop Art is characterized by a flat, striking, often large-format and illustrative style of representation in conjunction with extreme colorfulness, with pure or primary colors in the foreground. A clear demarcation of elements with the help of black lines is also characteristic. Common techniques include painting, installations, and collages, as well as prints such as offset and silkscreen. A popular form of representation in Pop Art was the serial arrangement of a motif. Andy Warhol used this stylistic device frequently because of its focus on both the mass production of the industrial age and his own artistic interest in repetition. One of the most famous examples is Warhol's iconic work "Campbell's Soup Cans". This series consists of 32 nearly congruent works, as a reflection of the 32 different flavors of soup producer.
The significance of Pop Art in international art-history
Pop Art is one of the most important art movements of the latter half of the 20th century and influenced advertising, music, design and fashion. Especially in the U.S., the realistic works reflected mass culture and social development, which could never succeed in the painting of the past. In contrast to abstract painting, everyday objects were intended to have an effect of their own and to move into people's consciousness. The original motivation of Pop Art artists was the regained prosperity after World War II and the economic miracle including affordable consumer goods. However, the initial enthusiasm later changed into a more critical attitude - triggered by events such as the Vietnam War or the assassination of John F. Kennedy. In this phase, Pop Art held up a mirror to the seemingly perfect (consumer) society and put its weaknesses in the spotlight.
Famous Pop Artists and their Works
Among the most important artists of Pop Art - besides the already mentioned Richard Hamilton - are Roy Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist, Andy Warhol and Keith Haring, whose works are popular with collectors and investors alike:
The New York-born artist is considered one of the Pop Art pioneers and was influenced in his early years by Cubist artists such as Picasso and Brague. His best-known works, mostly based on popular advertising and comics, include "Popeye," "Drowning Girl" and "Yellow Landscape."
A poster painter by training, Rosenquist drew most of his inspiration for his large-scale paintings from advertising, but also used his art to criticize politics. His most expensive auctioned artwork was "Be beautiful", which changed hands in 2014 for $3,301,000.
Warhol was and still is the most famous and influential Pop Art artist. His iconic works, such as Marilyn, and Coca-Cola bottles, often thrived on repetition and were meant to hold a mirror up to consumer-driven, American society. His painting "Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster)" set an auction record for works by Andy Warhol at Sotheby's in New York with $105 million.
Born in Pennsylvania in 1958, Keith Haring was one of the defining artists of the 1980s whose works were inspired by graffiti art. Haring's most expensive work, "UNTITLED, 1982" sold at auction in 2017 for $6,537,500.
In recent years, there has been a tremendous resurgence of interest in Pop Art on the part of museums and investors. For example, a major retrospective of Warhol's work was exhibited at TATE Modern in 2020, and collections at the Whitney Museum, MOMA, or Musée d'Art Moderne de Paris have been and continue to be crowd pullers. Major exhibitions not only honor the notoriety, talent and prestige of Pop Art artists, but also have a major impact on the price and appreciation of their work in the art market.
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