Segments in this Video

Pop Art Introduction (02:32)


Inspired by billboards across America, Andy Warhol created controversial works. Critics called them a betrayal of modern art; supporters approved their subversive nature. Alastair Sooke will meet some of the movement's pioneering artists.

Pop Art Pioneers (02:12)

Claes Oldenburg, Tom Wesselmann, Roy Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist, and Andy Warhol each worked in isolation, unaware that others shared their vision. They also did freelance advertisements, appearing to promote commercialism.

James Rosenquist (03:07)

Rosenquist's early billboard painting career contributed to his artistic development and he was accused of celebrating capitalism. He describes New York as a cutthroat city. By 1959, he was successful but felt ashamed of his "empty" images.

Seeking Truth in a Material Age (03:12)

In 1960, Rosenquist quit commercial sign painting and rented a studio; he discusses the creative process. Compositions were guided by the Zen idea that everything is empty. Learn about his masterpiece "F III" criticizing the Vietnam War and American consumerism.

Provocative Art (02:29)

Sooke discusses Rosenquist's tough exterior and pop art's probing nature. Pop artists were considered hoodlums; their work shocked the art world in the early 1960s.

Roy Lichtenstein (03:57)

Abstract expressionists, including Mark Rothko, failed to understand pop art’s intentions. Sooke analyzes technique and composition in "Girl with Ball" in terms of Lichtenstein's dialogue with abstract art. A 1964 "Life" magazine article showed the genre had reached a national audience.

Andy Warhol (03:27)

Warhol recognized that anything could be turned into a commodity. He constructed a persona to embody his mechanical art style, beginning with Campbell's soup cans in 1962. Sooke discusses Warhol's obsessions with celebrity and death, visible in "Marilyn Diptych."

Death and Disaster Series (01:27)

Warhol's paintings sourced images of car accidents and electric chairs from news reports, commenting on the mass media's desensitization. Pop art can be deep or shallow, depending on the viewer.

Peter Blake (03:47)

Sir Peter Blake's autobiographical work re-purposes circus props and English folk art, combining high and low culture. He expresses a loss of innocence during World War II, during which he was evacuated to the countryside.

Godfather of British Pop Art (03:25)

Blake's passion for pop music defined his artistic approach in the 1950s. "Got a Girl" imagery acts out a Four Preps song—a precursor to music videos. He inspired young art students to push boundaries; view a clip of "Pop Goes the Easel."

Allen Jones (02:03)

Jones was expelled from the Royal College of Art for "decorative" ideas. He recalls hanging a wall of pop art with Peter Phillips in the 1961 student exhibition. By the late 1960s, the movement had extended to Western society at large.

Atelier Populare (05:02)

An anonymous artist collective used pop art inspired posters to support protesting students in Paris in 1968. They occupied the Ecole des Beaux Arts lithographic department; Gerard Fromanger describes their printing operation. Silk screening increased production and allowed quick responses to events.

Death of Pop Art? (02:12)

In June 1968, Valerie Solanas attempted to assassinate Warhol. Many believed his movement was over, but he survived to make $2 million annually in commissions. He declared himself a business artist in 1975, inspiring Jeff Koons.

Political Pop (02:27)

In the 1970s, pop art became a means of Soviet political subversion. When China opened to the West in 1989, artists risked censorship to highlight the juxtaposition of communist ideals and consumerism and imagine a capitalist future.

China's Answer to Andy Warhol (02:39)

Sooke compares China's economic boom to the U.S. in the 1950s. Contemporary artists draw upon newly manufactured and commercial imagery, consumer desire, and an online society. Xu Zhen has created a corporate brand of pop art.

Xu Zhen's Pop Art (04:29)

The Chinese artist employs 50 staff members to design and produce works. His 2007 "ShanghART Supermarket" comments on consumption and echoes Andy Warhol; viewers can purchase empty packaging. Sooke discusses the genre’s universal appeal and role in removing cultural barriers.

Credits: Soup Can and Superstars: How Pop Art Changed the World (00:34)

Credits: Soup Can and Superstars: How Pop Art Changed the World

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Soup Cans and Superstars: How Pop Art Changed the World

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Alastair Sooke champions Pop Art as one of the most important art forms of the 20th century, peeling back Pop’s frothy, ironic surface to reveal an art style full of subversive wit and radical ideas. He brings a fresh eye to the work of Pop Art superstars Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, and tracks down Pop’s pioneers, from American artists like James Rosenquist, Claes Oldenburg and Ed Ruscha to British godfathers Peter Blake and Allen Jones. He also explores how Pop’s fascination with celebrity, advertising and the mass media was part of a global art movement. And Alastair travels to China to discover how a new generation of artists is reinventing Pop Art for the 21st century.

Length: 50 minutes

Item#: BVL124996

ISBN: 978-1-63521-928-9

Copyright date: ©2015

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