Andy Warhol & Coca-Cola

ANDY WARHOL'S COCA-COLA AFFINITY EXPLAINED

What's great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you can know that the President drinks Coke. Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too.

—Andy Warhol

In the midst of the 1960s, the world bore witness to a series of revolutionary events: the Civil Rights Movement sought justice and equality for African Americans in the U.S., the Cold War intensified with events like the Cuban Missile Crisis—and the rise of counterculture challenged established norms and values.

Within this backdrop, Andy Warhol's Coca-Cola art emerged as a commentary on mass consumerism, suggesting that amidst geopolitical tensions and societal upheavals, some symbols, like the Coca-Cola bottle, remained universal and unifying.

By transforming commercial items into art, Warhol not only highlighted the omnipresence of consumer culture but also subtly emphasized a shared human experience in a rapidly changing world.

BEGINNINGS OF AN ICONIC RELATIONSHIP

One of Andy Warhol's first Coca-Cola art
Source: Andy Warhol

Pop Art, a movement that began in the late 1950s, was challenging traditional art boundaries by focusing on mundane, everyday objects and popular culture.

Against this backdrop, Andy Warhol's decision to incorporate the Coca-Cola bottle into his art was groundbreaking.

By taking an everyday object, universally recognized and consumed by both the elite and the common man, and elevating it to the status of art, Warhol blurred the lines between commercialism and high culture.

This act, emblematic of the Pop Art movement's ethos, cemented Warhol's place as a pioneering figure and underscored the movement's exploration of consumerism, mass production, and the homogenization of culture.

3 COKE BOTTLES

Andy Warhol's 3 Coke Bottles artwork
Source: Andy Warhol

In "3 Coke Bottles," Warhol employs a distinctive aesthetic, with the trio of bottles appearing consecutively, each casting a faint, almost spectral shadow that seems to extend beyond the physical realm of the bottle.

This technique captures the duality of the Coca-Cola brand: its physical omnipresence and its intangible influence on society's collective consciousness.

Compared to other works by Warhol, such as his iconic Campbell's Soup Cans or portraits of Marilyn Monroe, there's a shared thematic thread – the elevation of everyday, commercial objects or popular figures to the realm of fine art, challenging traditional artistic hierarchies.

However, the stark simplicity and repetitive nature of "3 Coke Bottles" sets it apart, focusing on the motif of mass production and consumption more pointedly than some of his other pieces.While much of Warhol's oeuvre delves into the intersections of celebrity, consumerism, and culture, "3 Coke Bottles" offers a poignant and concise reflection on an object of universal recognition and its lasting cultural resonance.

VARIED PALETTES

Andy Warhol's Drink Coca-Cola artwork
Source: Andy Warhol

The 1960s was a transformative period for both art and advertising.

As color televisions became increasingly prevalent in households, the world of advertising began to transition from the simple, straightforward visuals of the 1950s to more dynamic and colorful presentations.

Warhol's Coca-Cola artworks evolved in tandem. Initially, his monochromatic pieces reflected a certain minimalism, reminiscent of early television commercials or print ads which utilized simple black-and-white visuals for emphasis.

However, as the decade progressed, brands, including Coca-Cola, embraced technicolor in their marketing campaigns.

Television commercials, billboards, and print ads burst into a spectrum of hues, reflecting the optimism and energy of the era. Warhol's later works, characterized by their vibrant colors, resonate with the vivacious advertisements of Coca-Cola from the same period, such as their famous "Hilltop" ad in 1971, which featured a multicultural group singing "I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke" against a bright, sunny backdrop.

Beyond Coca-Cola, this trend was evident across popular culture. Psychedelic motifs dominated album covers, posters, and fashion—think of The Beatles' "Yellow Submarine" or the swirling colors of Woodstock posters.

In this milieu, Warhol's transition to more colorful depictions of Coca-Cola bottles wasn't just an artistic evolution—it was a reflection, and to some extent, a critique, of the vibrant tapestry of commercialism and popular culture that characterized the era.

By echoing the aesthetics of contemporary advertising, Warhol's art provided both homage and commentary on the inextricable link between commerce and culture during the 1960s and 1970s.

CHRONICLES OF A BOTTLE

Large print of Coca-Cola bottles by Andy Warhol
Source: Andy Warhol

The Coca-Cola bottle, originally introduced in 1915, was designed with a distinct curvaceous shape, intended to be recognizable even when felt in the dark or seen broken on the ground.

This distinctive design, often referred to as the "contour bottle," was born out of a desire by The Coca-Cola Company to create a bottle as unique and iconic as the drink it contained.

As decades passed, slight modifications were made to the bottle, but its core design largely remained consistent.

Warhol's depictions, ranging from hand-painted illustrations to silk screen prints, chronicle this evolution while simultaneously emphasizing the bottle's enduring presence in American culture.
Through Warhol's lens, the Coca-Cola bottle is not just a container for a beverage, but a symbol of Americana, capturing the essence of commercialism, nostalgia, and shared experiences.

GREEN COCA-COLA BOTTLES

Andy Warhol's famous green Coca-Cola bottles artwork
Source: Andy Warhol

In 1962, as the post-war boom and the rise of consumer culture reached new heights, Warhol's decision to arrange 112 green Coke bottles in a rigorous grid format offered a poignant commentary.

The repetitive layout evoked the assembly lines of factories, echoing the standardized and mechanized nature of mass production that had become emblematic of American industry.

By using the universally recognized Coca-Cola bottle, Warhol spotlighted the juxtaposition between individual desire and mass-produced uniformity. Furthermore, the sheer quantity and identical nature of each bottle underscored the overwhelming ubiquity of consumer goods, challenging viewers to reflect on the distinction, or lack thereof, between art and commodity.

Through this artwork, Warhol critically engaged with the tension between the unique and the mass-produced, pushing audiences to confront the implications of living in a society dominated by consumerism.

CELEBRATION OR CRITIQUE?

© History Oasis

Andy Warhol's unique position in the 1960s art world allowed him to straddle the line between commercialism and commentary, a dichotomy especially palpable in his Coke-themed artworks.

As a figure deeply enmeshed in the commercial art world before his rise to pop art stardom, Warhol was acutely aware of advertising's power to shape and influence public perception. His adoption of the Coca-Cola bottle, an emblematic symbol of American commercial success and global influence, provided a canvas upon which these nuances of interpretation could play out.

On one hand, Warhol's detailed and often colorful depictions of the Coke bottle can be seen as a celebration of post-war prosperity and the burgeoning consumer culture.

His pieces mirrored the optimism of an era where newfound affluence allowed Americans to engage with brands and products as never before. Here, the Coca-Cola bottle stood as a beacon of the American Dream realized—a product known and accessible to all, irrespective of status or class.

Conversely, the repetitive nature of Warhol's presentations, arranging identical bottles in grid patterns or sequences, hinted at a more critical view. This repetition, emblematic of factory assembly lines, could be seen as a commentary on the homogenization of culture and the possible emptiness underlying unchecked consumerism.

The very act of transforming a commercial item into art forced viewers to grapple with the blurred lines between commodity and culture, potentially underlying the superficiality of materialism.

COCA-COLA, A CULTURAL ZEITGEIST

Another famous print of Coca-Cola by Andy Warhol
Source: Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol, ever the astute observer of American culture, deftly used the Coca-Cola bottle as a symbolic anchor in his artwork, capturing its unwavering ubiquity in a rapidly changing society.

Whether juxtaposed against the glamor of celebrity, the gravity of disaster, or the simplicity of everyday life, the Coke bottle remained a constant, emphasizing its deep-rooted place in the American psyche.

This positioning also served to highlight the paradoxes of American life, where the highs of fame and the lows of tragedy were both consumed alongside a familiar beverage.

By positioning the immutable Coca-Cola bottle amidst shifting backdrops, Warhol was making a statement about the enduring nature of consumer culture, even in the face of societal upheavals. His compositions invited viewers to reflect upon the constancy of certain commercial icons, despite the transience and volatility of the world around them.

NEW COKE

Andy Warhol's design for New Coke
Source: Andy Warhol

In 1985, Coca-Cola, in a bold move, decided to reformulate its century-old, iconic beverage.

This new iteration, named "New Coke," was the company's response to waning market share and the intensifying competition, especially from rivals like Pepsi. However, the introduction of New Coke ignited a firestorm of public backlash, with loyal customers expressing deep dissatisfaction and a sense of betrayal over the change to a beloved classic.

It was against this tumultuous backdrop that Coca-Cola approached Andy Warhol, a master of capturing the zeitgeist of American culture, to create a painting of the New Coke can.

Warhol, whose career had often intertwined with commercialism and consumer goods, seemed a fitting artist for such a commission. His resulting artwork presented the New Coke can in his characteristic style—at once familiar and yet, due to its association with a controversial product change, subtly subversive.

Warhol's painting added another layer to the ongoing public discourse.

Some saw it as a validation of New Coke's place in modern culture, while others interpreted it as a satirical jab at the impermanence of commercial decisions and the fickleness of consumer loyalty.

Regardless of interpretation, the artwork itself became emblematic of the era's tensions between brand legacy and the drive for innovation.

In a twist of irony, while New Coke would eventually be phased out due to overwhelming demand for the original formula, Warhol's painting—like many of his creations—would endure, capturing a unique moment in the annals of both art and commerce.

COCA-COLA IN MOTION

© History Oasis

Andy Warhol, known predominantly for his visual art, also ventured into the world of filmmaking during the 1960s, creating a series of avant-garde films that further cemented his status as a provocateur in the art world.

These films, often characterized by their minimalistic approach, extended durations, and unorthodox content, like the infamous "Empire," an eight-hour static shot of the Empire State Building, challenged conventional cinematic norms.

Within this experimental milieu, the occasional appearance of a Coca-Cola bottle or reference wasn't mere product placement. Instead, it became a silent commentary on the omnipresence of consumer goods in everyday life.

In seamlessly weaving the brand into the fabric of his films, Warhol underscored Coca-Cola's role not just in American consumption, but also its infiltration into art and culture at large.

LEGACY OF ANDY WARHOL’S COCA-COLA POP ART

Source: History Oasis

Andy Warhol, the quintessential figure of the Pop Art movement, deepened his relationship with Coca-Cola over the course of his career, creating a synergy that was unparalleled.

By the time of his death in 1987, Warhol had undeniably immortalized the Coca-Cola bottle in the realm of high art, while also reinforcing its status as an indelible symbol of American culture.

The artist's affinity for the brand stemmed not just from its commercial omnipresence but from the democratic ethos it embodied. In a nation marked by vast disparities in wealth and status, the act of sipping Coca-Cola was a rare, unifying ritual.

Warhol’s vision saw beyond the surface of the glass bottle; he perceived the deeper narratives that lay within.

The Coca-Cola bottle, in his work, was no longer a mere vessel of a popular drink but became an artifact through which layers of American society, culture, and values could be examined. Whether highlighting the bottle in vibrant colors or juxtaposing it with figures of fame and tragedy, Warhol invited contemplation on the broader themes of consumerism, mass production, and American identity.

His artworks resonated with a cross-section of society, offering a bridge between the world of the everyday consumer and the often insular realm of fine art.

Warhol’s fascination with Coca-Cola was not mere happenstance. It was an insightful, deliberate choice that epitomized the core tenets of pop art, drawing the mundane into sharp focus and making it extraordinary. By intertwining Coca-Cola's legacy with his art, Warhol forever altered the trajectory of both—leaving a bright mark on the cultural landscape.

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