Pop Art (also Pop Art according to the Duden dictionary) is an art movement, especially in painting and sculpture, that emerged independently in Britain and the USA in the mid-1950s, and became a predominant form of artistic expression in North America and Europe in the 1960s.
The motifs are often taken from everyday culture, the world of consumption, the mass media and advertising, and are depicted in photorealistic and usually oversized images.
Pop art stands for popular art - the term is attributed to the English art critic Lawrence Alloway - is often characterised as a reaction to the emphatically intellectual abstract art and turns to the trivial. The pop artist demands absolute reality, which means that all elements must be pure, clearly definable object-elements. For some artists, the forms are outlined with black lines (outlines) as in comic books. Often the depicted objects are designed without depth, like in a poster, i.e. flat. The colours are always clear, usually only the achromatic and primary colours are used.
Two different basic attitudes can be discerned within Pop Art: On the one hand, an initial enthusiasm for the (re)attained prosperity after the Second World War and the associated consumer society, on the other hand, a later critical attitude. This can be traced back to events such as the Vietnam War, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, race riots and the rise in drug use in the USA in the 1960s, as they revealed the vulnerability of this seemingly perfect calculated affluent society.
Among many art historians and critics, Richard Hamilton is considered the founder of Pop Art, although throughout his life he refused to be called the "father of Pop Art". His work Just What Is It That Makes Today's Homes So Different, So Appealing? from 1956 (collage, today: Kunsthalle Tübingen) is considered the first work of Pop Art that contained all the typical ingredients. The work was used as a motif for the poster for the exhibition This is Tomorrow, which took place in 1956 at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London. This exhibition was the last joint event of the Independent Group, a circle formed by artist friends who discussed the phenomenon of mass media and its relationship to contemporary art. At the same time, the circle wanted to introduce new themes to an interested public in an unusual form of presentation.
Eduardo Paolozzi, Peter Blake, David Hockney, Allen Jones, R. B. Kitaj, Peter Phillips and Pauline Boty were the other most important artists of English Pop Art.
In the United States, Pop Art was understood as a conscious departure from abstract expressionist painting. Due to the artistic tradition of the USA, Pop Art here was more direct and less theoretical than in Europe. Richard Lindner was an important pioneer. The flag paintings of Jasper Johns and the material objects of Robert Rauschenberg are very well known and are regarded as precursors of Pop Art without themselves belonging to this style. Genuine Pop Art includes the silkscreen prints of Andy Warhol and the comic pictures of Roy Lichtenstein, the object replicas made of soft materials by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, the large-format pictures by James Rosenquist, the Love sculptures by Robert Indiana and the antiseptic bathroom scenes by Tom Wesselmann. Andy Warhol is considered the Pop artist par excellence, representing Pop as a person and as art. He and a number of other Pop artists (Lichtenstein, Rosenquist, Wesselmann) came out of the commercial art practice that meant no stigma in the capitalist USA. Warhol was already successful as a commercial artist and marketed his art even more successfully.
With the exhibition New Painting of Common Objects, Walter Hopps showed the first overview of the new US American Pop Art in a museum in 1962 in Pasadena at the Pasadena Museum of Art. One of the last living representatives of the early days of US Pop Art is James Gill.
In Europe, US Pop Art was first shown in 1964 in the exhibitions Amerikansk pop-konst at the Moderna Museet Stockholm, Copenhagen and Amsterdam and Neue Realisten & Pop Art at the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, Vienna, Berlin and Brussels, and on a larger scale at the 4th documenta in Kassel in 1968. The collector Peter Ludwig acquired large blocks of works, which were later donated to the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, where one of the largest collections of Pop Art outside the USA can still be found today. At the end of the 1980s, extensive groups of works by Warhol, Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns and Rauschenberg from Karl Ströher's collection entered the holdings of the Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt am Main.
In 1963, four Düsseldorf artists - Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke, Konrad Lueg and Manfred Kuttner - coined the term Capitalist Realism as an ironic variation on Pop for their joint exhibition in an abandoned Düsseldorf shop (May 1963). A few months later, Richter and Lueg staged a performance in a Düsseldorf furniture store under the title Leben mit Pop - eine Demonstration für den kapitalistischen Realismus (11 October 1963). These two events are generally regarded as the birth of German pop.
The Berlin gallery owner René Block used the term Capitalist Realism to classify the artists he exhibited, KP Brehmer, Karl Horst Hödicke, Sigmar Polke and Wolf Vostell. They isolated banal objects of everyday life either alone or in collages, such as those alienated and processed by Wolf Vostell in Dé-coll/agen and Verwischungen or KP Brehmer in his Trivialgrafiken.