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Warhol painted familiar consumer items such as coca-cola bottles or soup cans throughout the 1960s, the earliest examples first shown in New York in 1962. Asked why he painted soup cans, Warhol replied, 'Because I used to drink it. I used to have the same lunch every day.' Using screenprinting, Warhol could simulate the mechanical effect of his source to the extent that the resulting image appears almost untransformed. Yet, the rich colour, enlargement of scale and unifying black outline are reminders that these are commercial techniques being used in the context of high art, no longer selling products, but presenting them as objects for contemplation. As such, they pose radical questions about the value of art and the way it is consumed.

August 2004