Art Encyclopedia: Pop Art

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By Jenny Shen ’23

Almost a year ago, on May 9th, 2022, Andy Warhol’s 1964 portrait of Marilyn Monroe was sold for $195 million dollars, making it the most expensive work of American art ever sold. After the release of this news, many wondered: Why is this artwork so valuable? Didn’t he just print Marilyn Monroe’s picture with different color variations? Can this really be considered art? 

Indeed, many of us questioned the value and purpose of the pop art movement when we first saw a picture of Andy Warhol’s famous Campbell’s Soup Cans or when we first set foot in a contemporary art gallery. However, the pop art movement is extremely important in the art world as it changed the perception of art and laid the foundation for a new art revolution focusing on the celebration of popular consumer cultures:

Pop art emerged as an art movement during the 1950s in the United States and the United Kingdom with its peak in the 1960s. The movement was inspired by the post-war popular and commercial culture that dominated the Western world at the time and began as a rebellion against traditional art forms. The pop artists felt that the artwork exhibited in museums or taught in schools failed to represent the real world, so they looked to contemporary mass culture for inspiration instead. 

Pop art often features mundane consumer symbols, such as household objects or iconic celebrities, and is characterized by bold combinations of the primary colors: red, blue, and yellow. Other elements of pop art include hard-edged compositions, satire, unusual combinations of objects, and imagery of political or social phenomena. Pop artists also adopted the commercial screen printing technique with graphic layouts mimicking the ads, billboards, and other marketing propaganda.

The pop art movement made art accessible to the masses so it can also be referred to as  “The Art Of The People.” Here are some of the most influential artists that participated in this movement and their works:

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