Made famous by Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, Pop Art continues to inspire many contemporary artists with its colourful, offbeat and “kitsch”, aesthetics. Works from this movement often represent stars or icons. What’s more, Pop Art remains one of the most sought-after genres amongst collectors. This week, KAZoART will fill you in on the five things you need to know about this popular artistic movement.

1. The birth of Pop Art

Girl with Hair Ribbon, Roy Lichtenstein, 1965 © Popartis
Girl with Hair Ribbon, Roy Lichtenstein, 1965 © Popartis

Pop Art was begun in the mid-1950’s in Great Britain and in the late 1950’s in America. It initially came about in reaction to Abstract Expressionism, which was considered too rigid and pretentious. Pop Art advocates for a return to the material realities of our everyday lives. To do this, artists use visual elements of popular culture that are isolated from their original context and often produced in a series. The thought and message behind the work is usually more noteworthy than the visuals themselves.

2. The precursors 

Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, I was a Rich Man's Plaything 1947 © Sir Eduardo Paolozzi 2002.
I was a Rich Man’s Plaything, Eduardo Paolozzi, 1947 © DACS.

The Independent Group (IG) appeared in London in 1952 and is considered to be a forerunner of Pop Art. Eduardo Paolozzi initiated this trend by presenting a series of collages entitled Superimposed which were composed of found objects such as newspaper advertisements, scraps of comic book paper and magazine covers.

The first work to include the word “pop” was a 1947 Eduardo Paolozzi collage entitled I was a Rich Man’s Plaything. In this work, a cloud of smoke on which the word “Pop” was written as it comes out of a revolver.

3. Andy Warhol: the manifestation of Pop Art

Le tableau des soupes Campbell au MOMA de New York, Andy Warhol, 2010 © GARDEL Bertrand / Hemis.fr
Campbell’s Soup Cans at the MoMA in New York, Andy Warhol, 2010 © Gardel Bertrand / Hemis.fr

Andy Warhol is a key figure in the Pop Art movement. Born in the U.S. in 1928, he began his career as a commercial illustrator before shifting his talent and energy to the art world. He was a jack of many trades. As a painter, director, music producer and author, he had a successful career in all of his endeavours. Today he is best known for his paintings of American icons and consumer products.

As of the early 1960’s, he became involved in screen printing in an attempt to defy the concept of an “original work” and with the intention of mass-producing artistic products. Such was the case with his famous Campbell’s soup can which inspired a series of stencil works in 1961. The following year, he integrated the use of silkscreen printing into his work and painted famous portraits of American stars such as Troy Donahue, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty.

4. The most expensive work

Silver Car Crash, Andy Warhol, 1963
Silver Car Crash, Andy Warhol, 1963 © Wikipédia

Andy Warhol’s work, Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) sold for $105 million (£80 million) at Sotheby’s in New York in 2013. This sale made Warhol the most expensive Pop Art artist in the world and ranked this particular work as #7 amongst the most expensive works of art ever sold.

5. The arrival of Neo Pop

Rabbit, Jeff Koons lewebpedagogique
Rabbit at the Château de Versailles, Jeff Koons, 2008 © lewebpedagogique

With his eccentric and colourful sculptures, Jeff Koons appears to be Andy Warhol’s worthy heir. Despite his training in Classical art, Koons drew his inspiration from the work of great 20th century artists such as Salvador Dali, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg.

In 1980, at the Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, he exhibited brand new vacuum cleaners enclosed in Plexiglas boxes that were lit by neon lights. This was the beginning of a long series of questionable and provocative expositions. In the classical setting of the opulent Chateau de Versailles, he didn’t even bat an eye before installing a giant aluminium lobster in the Salon of Mars and an inflatable rabbit in the Salon of Abundance.