The curvy Coca-Cola bottle is celebrating its 100th birthday and Atlanta’s High Museum is staging an exhibition on the design’s origins and influence.
The Coca-Cola Bottle: An American Icon at 100, which runs until October 4, has a prototype of the 1915 design and features the work of artists who have been inspired by the now-classic design.
“To do something that not only stays its course for the company over 100 years but that also becomes a cultural icon that really is recognisable all over the world is amazing,” says curator Julia Forbers.
The design was conceived as a way to distinguish Coca-Cola from a multitude of imitators. The company asked glass companies to come up with “a bottle that a person could recognise even if they felt it in the dark, and so shaped that, even if broken, a person could tell at a glance what it was.”
The Root Glass Co, of Terre Haute, Indiana, developed the winning design in “Georgia Green” glass with a bulge in the centre and ridges down the sides.
The exhibition includes a concept sketch and patent for the contour bottle design, both dating from 1915, and an original prototype, one of only two known to exist.
Opposite a display of Coca-Cola bottles through the years are two dozen posters by contemporary designers created in response to an invitation from Coca-Cola last year to imagine the next century. They were instructed to consider attributes like “universal happiness” and “stubborn optimism” and to use the colors red, black and white.
An entire gallery is devoted to Andy Warhol. On one wall are two paintings of single Coca-Cola bottles inspired by old ads, one a bit abstract with smudgy lines, and the other with lines so crisp and clean it doesn’t even look like a painting. These works from 1961 and 1962 came at the beginning of Warhol’s Pop art style using commercial images.
A Warhol quote from 1975 is printed on the gallery wall: “What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coca-Cola, Liz Taylor drinks Coca-Cola and just think, you can drink Coca-Cola, too.”
The exhibition concludes with a gallery of photos from the mid-1930s through the present. In some, the photographer is clearly using a Coca-Cola bottle or logo as art, while in others the bottle and logo just happen to be present.