A city councillor has questioned the decision to remove an artwork considered one of the most iconic pieces in the collection of Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) from display and place it in cold storage.

Andy Warhol’s Oyster Stew Soup (1968) is one of several works which have been removed to allow new and recent acquisitions from Glasgow Life Museums’ collection to be displayed.  

Oyster Stew Soup is part of Warhol's original Campbell's Soup Can series, which stands as one of the most iconic and influential bodies of work in the history of modern art. 

Warhol created two iconic print portfolios featuring Campbell’s Soup cans in 1968 and 1969. These portfolios, known as “Campbell’s Soup I” and “Campbell’s Soup II", exemplify Warhol’s fascination with consumer culture and his ability to elevate everyday objects into works of art.

It consists of 32 canvases, each depicting a different flavour of Campbell’s Soup. Warhol used a combination of painting and silkscreen printing techniques to create these works. 

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Created in the 1960s, the series propelled Warhol into the forefront of the Pop Art movement and cemented his status as a visionary artist. 

Oyster Stew Soup comes from the second portfolio of ten silkscreen prints, containing unusual flavours such as Clam Chowder. It was purchased by Glasgow Museums in 1981.

Today, the Campbell’s Soup portfolios by Warhol remain highly sought-after and celebrated as iconic examples of Pop Art. The auction record for the series - $11.8 million - was set by Small Torn Campbell’s Soup Can (Pepper Pot) (1962) in 2006. In 2022, a copy of Oyster Stew Soup was sold at Sotheby’s in New York for £64,500. 

Oyster Stew Soup was one of a number of works removed from display within Gallery 2 of GoMA in December to allow for a ‘rehang’ of works from the Glasgow Life Museums’ collection. 

The Through Line: Connecting the Collection exhibition within Gallery 2 is semi-permanent, with the works in it regularly rotated. At present, some acquisitions are showing in the museum for the first time, including 'Wrong Beat and Baby', 2021 by Glasgow-born artist France-Lise McGurn. 

The Herald: Andy Warhol’s Oyster Stew Soup (1968) is normally on display at GoMA in GlasgowAndy Warhol’s Oyster Stew Soup (1968) is normally on display at GoMA in Glasgow (Image: Newsquest)

Thomas Kerr, Glasgow Conservative Group Leader and Councillor for Shettleston Ward, called on Glasgow Life Museums to confirm how long Oyster Stew Soup will remain in cold storage. 

He told The Herald: “Glaswegians and art lovers visiting the city will be disappointed to see this iconic painting put into cold storage.

“Officials should be upfront about how temporary this decision will be and when Andy Warhol’s painting will proudly be displayed again.”

A spokesperson for Glasgow Life Museums said: “Gallery 2 in the Gallery of Modern Art highlights new and recent acquisitions from Glasgow Life Museums’ extensive collections. The Through Line: Connecting the Collection exhibition is semi-permanent, and the works in it are regularly rotated. As part of this rotation, Andy Warhol’s Oyster Stew print and other works were removed in December 2023.

“We have listened to visitor feedback for this rotation, which requested refreshed displays and more paintings to be shown. It is also an opportunity to take light-sensitive works off display to rest them and conserve them for future generations of visitors. 

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“We now have works by Bridget Riley, Barbara Balmer and a recent large-scale acquisition from France-Lise McGurn to view in the gallery.”

The decision to remove Warhol’s Oyster Stew Soup from display in GoMA comes following the departure of one of Glasgow's most treasured artworks from Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum.

Salvador Dali's Christ of St John of the Cross is currently on display at The Dalí Theatre and Museum in Dalí’s home town of Figueres, in Catalonia, Spain, having been loaned out by Glasgow Life Museums in October last year.

The painting, now valued at more than £60 million, is the focus of a temporary exhibition - the largest the Spanish museum has hosted since it opened nearly 50 years ago - which runs until the end of April.

Christ of St John of the Cross was originally scheduled to be loaned to The Dali Theatre and Museum in 2020 but was rescheduled due to the Covid pandemic. 

Prior to the loan, Glasgow MSP Paul Sweeney questioned the reasoning behind Glasgow Life Museums’ decision to allow the painting to leave Glasgow.

He told The Herald: “While it may be the case that art exchanges between museums are important and commonplace, it is concerning that Glasgow Museums seem to be loaning out the crown jewel of its Kelvingrove art collection with no reciprocation nor any tangible social and economic benefit to the people of Glasgow.”