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July 9: Irving Blum and Andy Warhol

July 9, 2013
Campbells_Soup_Cans_MOMAAndy Warhol’s “Campbell Soup Cans” exhibit, his first solo show, opened at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles on this date in 1962 and inaugurated the controversy about commercialism and artistic intention that would mark Warhol’s entire career. The Ferus Gallery was chiefly owned by Irving Blum, who had met Warhol in New York the year before, and a wealthy silent partner, Sadye Moss. Five of Warhol’s thirty-two canvases (each measuring 20“x16”) were purchased during the show for $100 each, but Blum bought them back to keep the set intact. Warhol happily sold Blum the entire set for ten monthly $100 installments; Blum eventually sold the set, intact, to the Museum of Modern Art for $15 million. The Ferus Gallery also showed Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, and other East Coast artists whose work would eventually eclipse Abstract Expressionism as the cutting-edge style of American art, and also ran a series of influential classes for novice art collectors led by Marcia Simon Weisman, who would help establish the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. “The reactions ran the gamut, they really ran the gamut. Public reaction, when there was a public reaction, was either scandalous or indifferent.” —Irving Blum