Warholian Food Styling Everywhere (Again, Forever)

Rachel Tepper Paley

Photo credit: Jessica Epstein/Flickr

What is it about the work of Andy Warhol that gives it such enduring appeal? It’s been more than half a century since the eccentric artist first put to canvas the image of a Campbell’s soup can, but the iconic painting still lingers in American pop culture consciousness—and variations on it are springing up in the strangest of places.

Like at a pop-up event from Dominique Ansel Bakery in East Hampton, New York on August 2, where the eponymous chef will dole out 500 sundaes-in-a-can inspired by Warhol. (They comprise root-beer-flavored ice cream, stracciatella and mascarpone semifreddo, macerated cherries, toasted marshmallows, and meringue garnishes. Not your typical canned food fare.)

Dominique Ansel’s sundae-in-a-can. Photo credit: Dominique Ansel Bakery

Warhol-esque design was also on display earlier this month at a huge fête Absolut hosted at the boozy, all-bartenders event Tales of the Cocktail. Guests gawked at a wall of stacked cans branded with the word “Absolut” rather than “Campbell’s.”

A wall of Warhol-inspired “Absolut” cans. Photo credit: Absolut

Then, of course, there were the 2012 limited-edition Campbell’s soup cans emblazoned with Warhol’s own colorful Campbell’s soup designs. The design had finally come full circle.

We asked Ben Harris, client services director for brand design consulting group Elmwood, to explain why Warhol’s designs continue to inspire—and remain modern—even 52 years later.

"He saw art as impermanent—it can be thrown away—and I think there’s something that resonates there with what’s happened with today’s consumerism," Harris said. Warholian design "speaks to nostalgia, but also to modernity," a sweet spot so many major brands favor today.

Though there’s a surrealistic quality to Warhol’s work, it remains remarkably accessible, and giving a products a dash of Warhol’s signature style “brings a lot of excitement towards a brand,” said Harris.

He continued: “Even today, it’s still shocking in some ways, in a way that he took imagery and he disrupted it. There is an instant gratification with Warhol… that was never intended to last for 50 years.”