Schools and Teachers
IntroductionKey QuestionsResourcesEvaluation FormWorks of Art
8. What is the difference between art and popular culture?

During the decades following World War II, the United States and a number of European countries experienced tremendous growth in consumerism. For some artists, the overwhelming presence of consumer products and popular culture led them to question the lack of connection between art and real life. The term “high” art was used to refer to painting, sculpture, and other works that followed the accepted theories of art at the time and that we would expect to see exhibited in galleries and museums. “Low” art or popular culture referred to imagery made for the general public, such as that found in comic books, industrial design, movies, television, and advertising.

Traditionally, the art world did not consider popular culture as a worthy source of art. Some artists rebelled against these established traditions by taking images or objects from popular culture (low art) and displaying them in art institutions. Their goal was to break down the barriers between high art and the objects we live with and to make people think about the values of the culture around them.

Activity

View the following images:
1. Lee Bul Plexus Blue
2. Willie Cole Stowage
3. Roy Lichtenstein Artist’s Studio No. 1 (Look Mickey)
4. Claes Oldenburg Shoestring Potatoes Spilling from a Bag
5. Jack Pierson Beauty
6. Andy Warhol untitled [Green Peas] from Campbell’s Soup 1

For each artwork, discuss the subject matter and its possible connections to popular culture. What has the artist done to make it into “high” art?

Choose an everyday object or image and talk about it as if it were a famous work of art.

If you were a collector of high art, what would you think about
a painting of a soup can? What do you think artist Andy Warhol is saying about traditional art? What do you think he is telling us about common, household objects?

Resources:
Related works of art (online version)
Related works of art (downloadable PDF version)

©2004 Walker Art Center