Campbell Soup Co. channels Andy Warhol for new cans

New Andy Warhol soup cans in front of an original Warhol painting from the 1960s.
New Andy Warhol soup cans in front of an original Warhol painting from the 1960s. (MEL EVANS / AP)
Posted: August 31, 2012

Campbell Soup is tapping Andy Warhol for another 15 minutes of fame.

The Camden soup maker plans to introduce special-edition cans of its condensed tomato soup bearing labels reminiscent of the pop artist's paintings at Target stores starting Sunday. The 1.2 million cans will cost 75 cents each.

The Campbell Soup Co.'s embrace of Warhol's iconic imagery is a switch from its initial reaction, when the company considered taking legal action but held off to see how the paintings were received by the public.

By 1964, the company realized the paintings were becoming a phenomenon and embraced the depictions. Campbell's marketing manager even sent Warhol a letter expressing admiration for his work.

Later that year, Campbell commissioned Warhol to create a painting of a can of Campbell's tomato soup as a gift for its retiring board chairman, Oliver G. Willits; Warhol was paid $2,000 for the work.

In 1993, the company bought a Warhol painting of one of its tomato soup cans to hang in the boardroom of its headquarters. The company also has a licensing agreement with the Warhol estate to sell clothing, magnets, and other gear, mostly overseas, bearing the artist's renditions.

Campbell has sold Warhol-inspired cans on two other occasions, although on much smaller scales. In 2004, the company sold 75,000 four-packs of Warhol-inspired cans at Giant Eagle, a Pittsburgh supermarket operator. During the holiday season in 2006, the company sold 12,000 units at Barney's in New York.

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