Roy Lichtenstein’s Turkey Shopping Bag was commissioned by curator Ben Birillo in 1964. Along with noted gallerist Leo Castelli, Birillo was an outspoken advocate for the Pop Art movement. Lichtenstein’s humorous contribution was featured in the American Supermarket exhibition held at the Bianchini Gallery in New York.
Turkey Shopping Bag is a signed silkscreen executed on a paper bag with handles. The work displays a black and yellow illustration of a turkey dish. Inspired in its visual language by newspaper advertisements, Lichtenstein’s design bags were sold in situ to visitors of the show. Several famous contemporary artists were involved in the exhibition, which contrasted actual consumer products and their pop imitations. For the exhibition, Birillo placed plastic and real food items alongside the artists’ renditions of the objects.
The gallery, located on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, was fitted to resemble a grocery store. The interior of the exhibition was complete with aisles, shelves, and an authentic checkout counter. Offerings included plaster cakes and cookies, turkeys, wax eggs and Campbell’s soup cans. Artworks were priced and sold cheaply on site, thereby blurring the line between consumption, commerce, and art. Nearly sixty years later, Lichtenstein’s tongue-in-cheek Turkey Shopping Bag continues to provide a poignant take on American culture and consumerism.