If there is anything certain in this world, it is death, taxes, and that there will always be a new collaboration between the Andy Warhol Foundation and a retailer. Backpack brand Herschel Supply released Tuesday its second collection featuring three of the Pop titan’s most enduring icons — bananas, cows, and blooming hibiscus flowers. The artworks adorn four of the brand’s silhouettes, which are now available for sale.
Andy Warhol died in 1987, but his cultural prominence has hardly waned since. He was savvy to what mattered to people and synthesized those obsessions—from politicians and starlets to household objects—into his screen printing practice. Banal images, like his signature blossoms, were reproduced ad nauseam, somehow bypassing kitsch in the process. Warhol began using motifs of the flower in 1964, after plucking the original image from a photography magazine. Their best-known iteration is used here in the collection: flat and saturated in hot pink, orange, and blue; set against a black and green thicket of grass for pleasing contrast.
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“Andy Warhol — From A to B and Back Again”, a 2018 exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art and Warhol’s first comprehensive U.S. survey in about 30 years, paired the flowers with “Cow Wallpaper [Pink on Yellow]”. Two gallery walls papered in the patterns met for an electrifying effect. Originally featured in his series Cow (1966-76), the titular bovine was depicted in bubblegum pink and set against a radioactive yellow background.
According to the artist, he was encouraged to seriously consider cows as his next subject by the influential Pop art dealer Ivan Karp. “Why don’t you paint some cows,” Warhol recalled of the conversation. “They’re so wonderfully pastoral and such a durable image in the history of the arts.”
He printed the cows as individual prints in four color schemes —Pink Cow on Yellow Background (1966), Brown Cow with Blue Background (1971), Yellow Cow on Blue Background (1971), and Pink Cow on Purple Background (1976) —but most galleries preferred to cover them as wallpaper. In 1966 for its first survey of Warhol, the Whitney decorated one of its walls with the print; that same year Leo Castelli Gallery followed suit with a single room that was adorned from floor to ceiling with Pink Cow on Yellow Background. (Apparently Castelli described the wallpaper to Warhol as “blazingly bright and vulgar,” which was meant as a compliment.)
Neither the flower nor the cow, however, can claim the iconic status of his banana. Warhol created the image as cover art for the debut album from The Velvet Underground & Nico’s debut album in 1967. The original artwork allowed listeners to peel the banana’s skin like a sticker, revealing the pale nude fruit underneath.
In his review of the album, the Village Voice’s Richard Goldstein wrote, “The Velvets are an important group, and this album has some major work behind that erect banana on the cover.”
Ironic given its current cult status, the album had little commercial success or immediate cultural impact. Lou Reed even fired Warhol in response to the album’s limp reception. However, interest in the album grew following Reed’s triumphant solo venture. Today original pressings with the peel-off sticker are prized collector items and have sold for upwards of $20,000.
Not within your budget? A hip pack from Herschel sporting the banana is going for a more modest $50.