Soup Cans (Quad) Banksy
Though it can be seen as a playful homage to Campbell’s Soup Cans series by Andy Warhol, Banksy’s Soup Can Quad can also be read as a cutting remark on the rise of poverty in our society and the ever increasing presence of the large corporations on our high streets who profit from it. As opposed to Warhol’s range of flavours – from clam chowder to chicken noodle – Banksy chooses to show just four identical cans of cream of tomato soup, showing the day to day reality, not to mention the monotony, of surviving on a low income. The cans feature gold tops, as if to signify the value they hold for a select number of shareholders rather than for the consumer.
Soup Can Quad was originally published as a screen print in 2006. It came in two different varieties: 54 prints on cream paper and 12 on grey paper, all signed by the artist. The first manifestation of Banksy’s soup cans appeared in 2005 when he released 280 signed prints in various colours featuring one single cream of tomato soup can. Unlike many of Banksy’s prints, the image of the soup cans was never painted in the street, however it is closely related to his mural entitled Very Little Helps , a reference to the Tesco slogan ‘Every Little Helps’. One of Banksy’s most famous murals, it remains preserved on Essex Road in London, now covered by Perspex. It shows a plastic Tesco carrier bag hanging from a flagpole and being worshipped by two young children. Here again Banksy seems to be openly denouncing the presence of Tesco supermarkets on almost every high street in Britain and the resulting diminishing of the consumer’s capacity for independent choice.
While in the 60s Warhol seemed to be celebrating the mass production and marketing strategies of a still young consumerist society, which lent itself so well to the medium of the screen print, Banksy’s take is more critical, asking who is really benefiting from the false economy of the Tesco Value range.