Contrary to popular belief Pop Art actually started in the UK in the 1950’s and not in the USA in the 1960’s as most people assume. One phrase espoused by art historians which fairly describes the origins of modern pop art is that pop art was born in England and grew up in America . Now aged well over 50, the good news is that Pop Art is very much alive and kicking and looking very sprightly for its age. In fact, in more recent times there appears to have been something of a renaissance of young pop artists around the globe – again finding its origins in the United Kingdom and, once again, moving west to the USA .
Many small galleries, websites, eBay and even more traditional décor retailers are now featuring a range of affordable pop art paintings. So what’s so new about this? Pop Art’s been around for a long time hasn’t it? Isn’t it old school?
Some would argue that the recent and re-explosion of the retail trade in the sale of original Pop Art paintings is the post-modern realisation of Warhol’s vision of the role of art within modern society. Warhol’s work in democratising art production and ownership were naturally hindered by the physical limitations of the amount of art he could personally produce. This inspired Warhol to set up his Art Factory (a studio production team mainly producing screen prints of Andy’s original designs in the earlier years and a fully autonomous art machine in later years).
However, one might argue that Andy Warhol’s achievements in canonising pop art , whilst of course outstanding for the work of just one man, didn’t fully realise the mandate of a pop/popular post-modern art form in that they were inextricably enmeshed with his personality and artist-as-celebrity status. Industrialist art emancipates art from the modernist notion of the struggling artist working magic in his lonely garret and returns instead to an earlier model of the art studio collective producing art to order.
One might therefore adopt the belief that this earlier pre-renaissance model of art production, rather than being outmoded, tallies more with a post-modern realisation of the role art occupies in society and defies the now archaic modernist notion of the artist as inspired genius. That’s why this author contends that we young new breed of Pop Artists have truly democratised art production and ownership – claiming it back from the aficionados and beard-stroking critics who stole art from the people from whom it finds its genesis.
Once was the time that every abode was adorned with original art from the first daubs on cave walls to the highly decorated homes of the Egyptians through to the intensely decorated artefacts of the Celts. Pop art in one sense has reduced art to the mundane (Warhol’s Campbell Soup can being an obvious example) and yet, simultaneously, elevated popular culture, media and celebrity itself to the lofty heights of art .
The most encouraging thing about this new-breed of pop artists is the way it offers, at last, real art back to the people at a price every working man or woman can afford – a price dictated by the labour involved in its production only and free from the price hikes that galleries would make in order to preserve it for the very elite.
This is the reason why this author strongly believes that Pop Art , rather than being an historical art movement, is in fact the true future of art – its art for the people, by the people. In fact with the ever consistent growth of the importance of celebrity and popular culture you can certainly expect to see pop art around for a long time yet.