Pop Life exhibition banner

‘Good business is the best art’, Andy Warhol famously remarked. His unabashed devotion to the marketplace was derided by much of the art world during his lifetime but, since his death in 1987, many subsequent artists have followed his lead, embracing commerce and celebrity as the foundations of their work. Like Warhol, they have found that marketing and publicity provide a means of engaging modern life beyond the confines of the studio, the gallery and the museum.

This introductory room places Warhol alongside two of the most celebrated artists to follow in his wake, Jeff Koons and Takashi Murakami. In each case, signature works of art are accompanied by related materials designed for popular consumption.

Warhol made self-portraits throughout his career. Instantly recognisable not just from his gallery exhibitions but, increasingly, from gossip columns and chat shows, his face became a commodity that he was happy to hire out to advertisers. In the example shown here, the familiar bewigged personage hawks videocassettes for TDK Electronics.

Koons has built his reputation on a keen eye for images that appeal on the most basic level, linked to a shrewd understanding of publicity. Many of his works are based on extant objects and images, and draw upon sources such as glossy magazine advertising, children’s toys, and the slick products of consumer culture. Rabbitis a stainless steel sculpture based on a novelty balloon, which was in turn recreated as a giant inflatable for the 2007 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, bringing art to the masses in a spectacular form on par with Snoopy, Big Bird and the other cartoon figures that populate the parade.

Murakami is perhaps the leading contemporary example of the artist/entrepreneur, managing a studio whose activities extend to fashion, web design, music, accessories, film-making and even the organisation of a Tokyo art fair. While his painting and sculptures have attained blue chip status, he has also reproduced many of his best-known works as shokugan figurines – collectible ‘snack toys’ packaged with sweets or chewing gum – affordable to all.