The novelist Salman Rushdie has always dreamed large. He’s written stories about how nations come into being; how new ideas come into the world and how the modern world connects to the ancient. Midnight’s Children, his second novel, won the Booker Prize in 1981, when Rushdie was in his early 30s.
But not many Americans had heard of Rushdie until Valentine's Day, 1989, when the dying Ayatollah Khomeni of Iran issued the infamous fatwa calling for Rushdie’s head, for the supposedly blasphemous novel The Satanic Verses. Rushdie spent most of the next decade in hiding, accompanied by armed British agents. He’s now published his account of that stranger-than-fiction time: Joseph Anton: A Memoir.
Then, around 1961, Andy Warhol started painting cans of Campbell's soup, in all 32 varieties. He liked to tell people that his mother made him Campbell's soup and that's why he painted it.
The soup cans are probably the most recognizable images in American art, and Warhol intended it that way. He borrowed the Campbell's brand fame to help make his own; he appeared in Time in 1962 as part of the Pop revolution that was remaking art — destroying the serious, sublime aspirations of artists like Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. Warhol was doing Campbell's soup at the same time he was painting Marilyn Monroe and Liz Taylor.
In his art, Campbell's was a "star" like a movie pinup. But as obvious as they look, the paintings are still mysterious today: Why paint something you can buy in a grocery store? What did Warhol mean? Studio 360's David Krasnow looked for answers. [Broadcast Date: September 22, 2012]
Want more Studio 360?