Last week, I was excited to be a part of the opening of the traveling art exhibition, The Coca-Cola Bottle Art Tour: Inspiring Pop Culture for 100 Years, in Cape Town, South Africa. Nearly 6,000 consumers had a once-in-a-lifetime experience at the launch at the V&A Waterfront before it embarks on an international tour.

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I saw consumers and tourists visibly delighted and excited as they took selfies and sipped on perfectly served, ice-cold bottles of Coca-Cola as the passed through the multi-sensory journey of Coca-Cola bottle-themed art, sculptures and iconic artwork.

Jamal Booker
Jamal Booker 

I opened the event with Sharon Keith, marketing director for Coca-Cola South Africa, at a special preview event the night before it opened to the public. Sharon reminded guests of the specialness of drinking Coca-Cola from an ice-cold bottle, remarking that the Coca-Cola bottle is known and loved all over the world.

“It is the perfect bottle for the perfect beverage—people know what it means to hold that familiar, ice-cold shape and get ready to be refreshed,” she said.

I told the group that I still marvel at how a consumer goods package has come to hold such iconic status.

When the bottle was created 100 years ago, the objective was not to create an icon, however. The goal was simply to create a bottle that would separate Coca-Cola from its imitators, the “Koca-Nolas” and “Sola-Colas” of the marketplace. Yet the bottle has indeed become an icon featured in formative works of art such as Salvador Dali’s “Poetry in America” in 1943, the first documented use of the Coke bottle in fine art. The bottle has also been featured in the works of leading figures in the Pop Art movement such as Eduardo Paolozzi and Andy Warhol, who are both included in the traveling show.

The Coca-Cola Bottle Art Tour: Inspiring Pop Culture for 100 Years

To celebrate 100 years, we decided to create a traveling experience to celebrate the role of the bottle in art and popular culture, featuring 20 artists from all around the world. The years since 1915 have seen the iconic Coke bottle manufactured in glass, PET and aluminum and, through the years, the bottle has served as both an inspiration and a canvas for artists – but it doesn’t end there.

I learned while in Cape Town that parts of the bottle have also served as “brush”! In nearly 10 years of studying, exploring and collecting Coca-Cola art and artifacts, I came face to face with one of the most unique ways I have ever seen an artist connect with the Coke bottle. South African artist Mbongeni Buthelezi, who is a featured local artist in the show launched in Cape Town, is famous for painting with and on reclaimed plastic. In fact, he is known to use plastic wrappers from Coca-Cola bottles to paint with. And I can tell you firsthand that his works are extraordinary!

The show was unveiled during an important time in Cape Town’s cultural calendar: Art and Design Week. The city simultaneously hosted the celebrated Design Indaba convention, which brings together designers from all around the globe. 

I was thrilled to be a part of the opening, and we are delighted to welcome consumers all around the world to this experience, which will also visit China, Canada, Argentina and other markets before making its final stop in Sydney, Australia in November.

Click through for the art tour schedule

Jamal Booker is manager of heritage communications at The Coca-Cola Company.