Rediscovered Andy Warhol Painting Inspires Exclusive Limited-Edition Absolut Vodka – iCohol (2024)

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American artist and icon Andy Warhol (1928-1987) whose ‘rediscovered’ 1985 artwork could give Absolut Vodka a new lease of life.

Absolut Vodka—once fêted for its creative limited-edition bottles, often tying up art with social messaging—is at it again. This time it has rekindled an old partnership through the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

The Swedish vodka brand, owned by French drinks giant Pernod Ricard, says the new, watery blue bottle will “reignite conversations around culture and inclusivity” and bring Absolut’s legacy in the art world to new audiences.

Back in 1985, Andy Warhol became the first artist to produce artwork based on the silhouette of Absolut’s (then) distinctive apothecary-inspired bottle. Absolut Warhol became the brand’s first art advert and marked the beginning of its involvement in the arts.

Warhol subsequently recommended Keith Haring to interpret the Absolut bottle, and between 1985 and 2004 more than 550 artists subsequently created more than 850 works. The early pieces were part of a brand communication strategy associated with the glamour of New York’s Studio 54, as well as the victims of the AIDS epidemic, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the birth of IT.

Pernod Ricard bought into Absolut’s cultural legacy in 2008, when it fought off rivals to acquire the brand.

The original Absolut Warhol was painted with vibrant colors on a black background and is considered iconic by some. On the MyArtBroker website, a signed print is listed for £27,000 to £40,000 ($34,250 to $50,700).

A second Absolut Warhol painting, also from 1985, had been rumored to exist for decades before his ‘blue’ artwork was uncovered at an auction in 2020. In proving its provenance the original contract was unearthed, confirming both paintings had been commissioned. Pernod Ricard saw an opportunity to revitalize the original partnership—and the Absolut brand.

From a retail perspective, the limited-edition Absolut Warhol line launched on Monday exclusively in global travel retail (GTR) stores. Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport is opening an interactive, gallery-style pop-up store for the product, with other major travel hubs lined up.

The bottle brings Warhol’s rediscovered Absolut ‘blue’ painting from 1985 to life by extracting shades of blue from the work and includes an image of Warhol himself alongside his original signature.

The latest Absolut Warhol is exclusive to travel retail for two months.

Pernod Ricard—whose portfolio includes Chivas Regal, Jameson, and Royal Salute whiskies, Martell cognac, Havana Club rum, and Mumm and Perrier-Jouët champagnes—has put a big budget behind a 3D out-of-home (OOH) ad campaign in the channel and multiple retail activations at airport like London Heathrow in the U.K., Dubai, Singapore Changi, São Paulo, and others.

Only after two months of exclusivity in duty-free will the new Absolut Warhol limited-edition bottle roll out across more than 50 additional global markets (from September) in both one-liter and 700ml bottles.

In travel retail, the one-liter bottle is available, priced at a recommended selling price of $24 or €22. This is cheaper than the current online price of a standard Absolut bottle: €23.90 at Amsterdam Schiphol (checked today). In a channel where premiumization is commonplace, even the norm, Pernod Ricard may score with this accessible-pricing strategy, especially with younger legal drinking age (LDA) travelers.

According to drinks market analyst IWSR, there was flattened consumer demand for alcoholic beverages in the first half of 2023 due to belt-tightening, though spirits (excluding national spirits) were up by 1%, based on the firm’s latest Bevtrac data.

Referencing 2024, IWSR’s senior consumer insights manager, Anastasia Timofeeva, said in December: “The key will be whether real wages can grow sustainably in the next two quarters in Europe and North America, particularly for younger LDA+ and middle-income consumers—and whether the ‘natural’ positivity in China and India translates into actual consumption behavior.”

The creative positioning and competitive pricing of Absolut Warhol should give it an advantage in this economic environment. Liya Zhang, vice president of global marketing at Pernod Ricard GTR commented: “This launch will be of huge significance to the evolution of Absolut in travel retail. Through this partnership with The Andy Warhol Foundation, we can democratize art and bring it to all nationalities (and) also recruit new generations of consumers.”

Andy Warhol, John Sex (right), and masked friend at Absolut Vodka’s Party for Keith Haring at the Whitney Museum on October 2, 1986. (Photo by Patrick McMullan/Getty Images)

The foundation will also be receiving some proceeds which its director of licensing, marketing and sales, Michael Dayton Hermann, said would support its philanthropic work. He added that he was “thrilled” to see the Absolut campaign come to life and engage younger people with Warhol’s legacy “in a fresh and dynamic way.”

A short promo from Mexican director and photographer Santiago Sierra Soler is inspired by Warhol’s brush strokes and accompanied by a remixed version of 20th Century Boy by T. Rex. Meanwhile, the rediscovered painting will be showcased at Stockholm’s Sprit Museum, the home of the Absolut Art Collection, on October 17, 2024. It will be the centerpiece of a new exhibition called Andy Warhol, Money On The Wall, curated by art historian and Warhol biographer, Dr. Blake Gopnik.

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Rediscovered Andy Warhol Painting Inspires Exclusive Limited-Edition Absolut Vodka – iCohol (2024)


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