Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, stalwarts of the Pop art movement, are world-famous for their instantly recognisable artworks. They are permanent fixtures in museums, coveted by collectors, and regular stars of exhibitions across the globe.
However, a new exhibition at the University of Akron in Ohio is showcasing something a little more unexpected: an exhibition of bags. What makes this exhibition special is that it is full of bags that have been signed by world-renowned cultural icons.
The exhibition features a fraction of the 12,000 bags from the Lee L. Forman Collection of Bags. Forman, a graphic artist who started collecting bags in the 1970s, died in 2009 but her collection of bags fits in perfectly with the institutions aim to explore “what it means to be human”.
Forman’s collection includes shopping bags autographed by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and one bag from every presidential election since 1948. There is also a cheeseburger bag signed by Elvis Presley. And a record sleeve signed by the Beatles.
Howard Forman told The Associated Press that his late wife was interested in bags for “their artistic appeal, as well as how they are cultural icons.” The couple founded a private Museum of Bags — open only by appointment — in the apartment above their garage next to their house in 2002. “Our tagline for our museum was ‘cultural icons,’ ” he said.
The collection has now been bought by the University of Akron. Jodi Kearns, director of UA’s Institute for Human Science and Culture told The Associated Press, “Bags are an everyday item that some people don’t think about. But they are such a significant part of our cultural lives.”
Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol can now been recorded as artists whose mere signatures on shopping bags are even considered valuable works of art – a nod to the commercial culture they mimicked (even down to shopping bags) so frequently in their work.