Andy Warhol's prints of celebrities and sculptures of everyday items. Richard Hamilton's collages of appropriated advertising imagery. Roy Lichtenstein's large, comic strip-inspired canvasses. All of the above are pieces of Pop art, one of the most important art movements of the 20th century.
Emerging in the 1950s, in Britain and the USA concurrently, Pop art concerned itself with the mundanity of popular culture, and it came like a bolt from the blue. While New York's then-dominant Abstract Expressionist's filled huge canvasses with energetically applied paint in a collective effort to represent inner emotion, Warhol et al employed photography, photomontage and detailed sculptural techniques to comment on both elitism in the art industry and the consumer-led world around them.
Mundane household items featured prominently as did countless celebrities, who were represented as products of mass culture packaged and presented to the public in much the same way as a tin of soup, or a Brillo pad. Even the US flag came under scrutiny – Jasper Johns represented the stars and stripes in myriad forms not because he was nationalistic, but because he was looking to paint the most banal, easily recognisable subject he could find.
Don't mistake the Pop artists' interest in everyday items as a lack of seriousness. Their works were biting critiques of consumerism, brand power and the public's vacuous fascination with celebrity, and are as relevant now as they ever were.