If David Ogilvy was the “father of advertising,” Andy Warhol, with his prolific manipulation of pop culture’s visual lexicon, was surely its eccentric uncle. The chaotic universe conjured by the pop artist belonged to everyone and no one, an endless masquerade of identifiable forms drawn up from the well of mass-media fueled mass consumption.
The masses were out of site but consumption hardly out of mind at the terrace of the Gramercy Park Hotel yesterday evening, where the Andy Warhol Foundation joined Perrier in announcing “limited-edition bottles featuring the work of Andy Warhol.” The bottles will come in a number of sizes and formats, with labels featuring four designs based on the 40 artworks Warhol produced in 1983 depicting Perrier bottles.
As carbonation cognoscenti might note, the move follows the San Pellegrino collaborations with Missoni and Bulgari, which saw the Italian bottler join forces with an Italian fashion house to bring pleasing patterns to grocery store shelves. It’s an interesting act to follow, with Perrier’s new initiative to be read either as corporate one-upmanship — I’ll see your designer and raise you an artist — or as a comment on Warhol’s relative stature as a producer of iconic consumer symbols, an anchor to the ephemeral imagery of fashion and advertising.
In his brief remarks to the 40 or so who assembled for the event, Tim Brown, CEO of Perrier, commented that Warhol’s demeanor perfectly suited the brand, whose French motto is “Perrier c’est fou,” which he translated as “Perrier is fun.” This isn’t exactly right. The word “fou,” translated correctly in this context, leans to an upbeat madness or folly (the shared Latin root is follis), but “Perrier is mad” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. Or, for that matter, suit the American sensibility, which — as Warhol himself envisioned it — tends toward the loud and simple and, well, “fun.”
But who cares. Both the Warhol Foundation and Perrier — which has a long history of drawing upon artists to enliven its brand, among them Salvador Dalí — are more than entitled to commingle their respective products. Following Brown in addressing the crowd, KC Maurer, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer of the Warhol Foundation, spoke of her organization’s ongoing efforts to promote and provide grants to artists and safeguarding their First Amendment rights.
It’s all terrific. And the bottles offer some visual variety, less staid and austere than yesterday’s green and yellow scheme, and there are greater quarrels to be fought with the Andy Warhol Foundation’s handling of his legacy. Besides, much like the act of acquiring a Warhol itself, shouldn’t paying for a bottle of the Earth’s most abundant compound mixed with the gas responsible for its undoing be acknowledged with some suitably garish wink of self-awareness?