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Past Exhibitions

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The Coca-Cola Bottle: An American Icon at 100

February 28–October 4, 2015

Presented on the occasion of the Coca-Cola bottle’s centennial, this exhibition brought together work by renowned artists, designers, and photographers, showcasing the iconic Coca-Cola bottle’s outstanding impact on 20th and 21st century visual culture.

Click on an image below to learn more.

“The Coke Bottle is…well thought out, logical, sparing of material and pleasant to look at. The most perfect fluid wrapper of the day and one of the classics in packaging history.” — Raymond Loewy, June 22, 1971

Overview

The Coca-Cola Bottle: An American Icon at 100 explores the iconic design and creative legacy of the Coca-Cola bottle. Presented on the occasion of the bottle’s centennial, the exhibition features more than 100 objects, including more than 15 works of art by Andy Warhol and more than 40 photographs inspired by or featuring the bottle. Visitors will have the opportunity to view original design illustrations, historical artifacts and a century of experimentation with the Coca-Cola bottle, which has enticed multiple generations and billions of people worldwide and inspired numerous artists since its inception in 1915. Photographers such as Walker Evans and William Christenberry documented the Coca-Cola bottle’s universal presence in the cultural landscape of 20th century America. The Coca-Cola bottle also helped spur Warhol’s pioneering shift to his breakthrough pop art style.

Organized by the High in collaboration with The Coca-Cola Company, the exhibition will be presented in two floors of the High’s Anne Cox Chambers wing. As visitors enter the exhibition gallery in the first-floor lobby, they will encounter more than 500 contemporary 3-D printed bottles suspended from the ceiling that reference the Coca-Cola bottle’s iconic design. The second floor displays will feature three main areas: a section focused on the design history of the bottle, a pop art section with more than 15 works by Warhol, and a photography section including works from the High’s permanent collection.

Bottle Design

“A bottle which a person could recognize even if they felt it in the dark, and so shaped that, even if broken, a person could tell at a glance what it was.” — Design Brief, The Coca-Cola Company, 1915

A century ago, in the small town of Terre Haute, Indiana, the Coca-Cola contour bottle was born. The rise of copycat brands led the already successful
Coca-Cola Company to seek out a new, exclusive package that would help consumers unmistakably identify the genuine Coca-Cola product. By 1915,
Coca-Cola sent out a call to a handful of bottle manufacturers to develop a new and distinct bottle design.

The employees of the Root Glass Company ultimately conceived of a design that perfectly answered the Coca-Cola Company’s original brief calling for a bottle recognizable even when broken or felt in the dark. The designers drew inspiration from what they believed to be the product’s ingredients, and incorporated the ribbed, bulbous shape of the cocoa pod into the original bottle design. The bottle was patented on November 16, 1915 and The Root Glass Company was awarded the design contract soon after.

Over the last 100 years the Coca-Cola bottle has maintained its signature shape. Through changes in technology and materials, from the first experiments with a plastic bottle in the late 1960s to the first aluminum version of the bottle in 2005, the contour shape has remained the iconic symbol of the brand.

Andy Warhol’s POP Art

“What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coca-Cola, Liz Taylor drinks Coca-Cola, and just think, you can drink Coca-Cola, too.” — Andy Warhol, 1975

Andy Warhol (American, 1928–1987) was associated with the American Pop art movement, which was radical in its time for introducing mass-produced commercial imagery, like the Coca-Cola brand, into art. Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Warhol studied at the Carnegie Institute of Technology and then moved to New York City. There, he established himself as a commercial artist, with his illustrations frequently appearing in magazines, newspapers, and store windows. By the early 1960s, Warhol was creating works that drew on imagery from tabloids and advertisements, hand copying these pictures in a way that erased any sense of the artist’s involvement from the canvas. Soon he was almost exclusively borrowing photographic images from the media and screen-printing them with the help of assistants in his expansive studio known as The Factory. These mass-produced works challenged traditional ideas about the uniqueness of a given work of art and the role of authorship in its creation. By the late 1960s Warhol had turned his attention to other forms of media, including experimental films. The celebrity status he attained demonstrated that an artist could become as iconic as the works he produced.

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