Aurora Garrison | November 2017
A unique set of ten Andy Warhol prints belonging to the artist’s Campbell’s Soup Can II collection have recently surfaced in the contemporary art market. The pieces are of exciting provenance and tell a spectacular story outside the frame, one that exemplifies the artist, his work and his humanity. Almost fifty years ago, Andy Warhol gifted the collection to the surgeon who saved his life after he was shot by Valerie Solanas.
The ripped-from-the-headlines backstory is as follows: On June 3, 1968 Warhol was rushed to the Emergency Room at Columbus Hospital from his New York studio, “The Factory”, after Solanas, a radical feminist and playwright, fired three bullets from a .32-calibre automatic revolver through the artist’s chest and stomach. Warhol lost so much blood from his bullet wounds that, having no detectable heartbeat or blood pressure, he is pronounced clinically dead at 4:51 PM.
Serendipitously, Italian-American surgeon Dr. Giuseppe Rossi was the lead doctor the evening of Warhol’s shooting, and undeterred and determined, Dr. Rossi opened Warhol’s chest to begin an arduous five-and-a-half-hour surgery. Dr. Rossi removed the artist’s mangled spleen and part of his right lung, massaged his heart to encourage movement and ordered an immediate blood transfusion. Unbeknownst to Dr. Rossi throughout the whole procedure, his unfortunate patient had been none other than Andy Warhol.
True to form, Warhol began repaying Dr. Rossi and showing his gratitude for saving his life by gifting the Rossi family with a series of prints, including a complete set of his Campbell’s Soup II screen prints. The images of the Campbell’s soup cans are some of the most recognizable and iconic of Warhol’s, embodying the artist’s graphic style and fascination with the emerging consumer culture in the 1960’s and 70’s.
The set of ten Campbell’s Soup Can II come directly from the Rossi family’s original collection, establishing the prints as works of impressive provenance. The set come from Warhol’s original 32 Campbell’s Soup paintings produced in 1962. The prints are further unique in that they include rare renditions of Campbell’s Soup Cans, featuring untypical flavors and distinctive design details, different from the first 10 prints found in the first portfolio of Campbell’s Soup cans.
The distinctive designs along with a complete provenance story set the collection of Campbell’s Soup Can II far apart from most prints in today’s market. Often, prints do not have a definitive origin and travel from collection to collection without a comprehensive list of past owners.
The story of the collection’s provenance illustrates Warhol the man, the artist and expand his legacy of artistic innovation and humanism, revealing Warhol’s lesser known private generosity and sensitive nature, in some ways contradicting his very public bigger-than-life persona as the 20th century’s “Pope of Pop.”
Revolver Gallery has individual prints as well as a complete portfolio of Campbell’s Soup Can II available for purchase.