In the early 1980s, Absolut Vodka developed their classic style of advertising, making use of the iconic design of the vodka bottle itself. In 1986, Andy Warhol created the first of many commissioned artworks to be used in Absolut Vodka's advertising campaigns. From 1986 until 2004, Absolut Vodka maintained and developed a tradition of working closely with artists all around the world. The 850 artworks commissioned by Absolut Vodka were deemed an important part of Sweden's cultural heritage and so were entrusted to the care of Spritmuseum in Stockholm. 70 selected works from the collection are now to be displayed to the public for the first time at Spritmuseum in Stockholm in an exhibition entitled Face it!
Andy Warhol was famous for his art, his films, for Interview Magazine, for the glamorous parties at his "factory" studio, and for his constant presence in New York's nightlife. In the 1980s, Andy Warhol was still one of the central figures in the dynamic cultural scene in New York. He was close to many exciting artists and musicians such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Debbie Harry, Julian Schnabel, Grace Jones, Keith Haring and Madonna.
Andy Warhol was asked to create a unique artwork for Absolut Vodka in 1986. Some people saw this as a big risk. Nothing like this had been tried before by any commercial brand. The risk paid off. Absolut Warhol was an immediate success and still has an iconic status today.
In the mid 1980s, Keith Haring was a young artist emerging from the New York underground. He made many of his early works as graffiti on the New York subway. His vibrant paintings quickly took the world by storm. Haring became a close friend and collaborator of Andy Warhol.
On Warhol's recommendation, Keith Haring became the second artist to receive a commission from Absolut Vodka. In working directly with cutting edge contemporary artists, Absolut Vodka was breaking the established rules of advertising. The company's association with Andy Warhol and Keith Haring enhanced the brand's aura of exclusivity and creativity.
Levinthal made his Wild West Absolut image just prior to exhibiting a whole series of cowboy themed photographs. At the same time, Andy Warhol was also working on a series of paintings of cowboys and Indians (showing that great minds think alike!)
David Levinthal has received critical acclaim for his photographic series depicting toy figures in a variety of situations; recreations of the second world war, New York street scenes, American pin-ups, and the Wild West. He still works in this manner, creating photographs that comment on world politics and popular culture.
Kenny Scharf was another up and coming artist emerging from the New York underground in the 1980s. Like Keith Haring, Scharf started out making graffiti art. His psychedelic cartoon paintings, sculptures and installations still retain elements of a graffiti style.
Kenny Scharf and Andy Warhol were close friends during the mid 1980s. Scharf claimed that Warhol was one of the biggest influences on his art. The admiration was mutual and Andy Warhol recommended Scharf as the third artist to create a unique artwork for Absolut Vodka.