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Art and Advertising

The relationship between art and advertising is ever strengthening, but is this a revelation or merely a spotlight upon a lifelong affinity?

Last week the creative world saw an end to one of the most prolific and successful modern day art-fashion collaborations. Louis Vuitton announced fans would only have two weeks to pick up an item from their Takashi Murakami collection (pictured below), ending their twelve year partnership, which included a controversially commercial travelling Louis Vuitton Boutique that appeared at Murakami’s worldwide gallery shows. But this is by no means an end to collaboration for either party, Cindy Sherman, Stephen Sprouse, Richard Prince, and Yayoi Kusama are among the artists Louis Vuitton are currently working with. All the while Murakami has been working with Vans as well as Pharrell while maintaining progress on his personal art career, including developing the sequel to his feature film Jellyfish Eyes.

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Luxury brands like Louis Vuitton have a natural need to perpetuate their identity through rich artistic interpretation. Another brand harnessing this approach is Swatch, while running their Swatch Art Peace Hotel, they’re also the main sponsor of the world’s most prestigious contemporary art exhibition, la Biennale Arte. Furthermore they’ve commissioned an installation at la Biennale Arte (pictured below) by Joana Vasconcelos, renowned for her engaging installations, she brings the “Giardino dell ‘Eden” to the biennale, a florescent indoor garden of glowing flowers.

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Shepard Fairey holds many accolades as an artist and advertiser, among them, a letter from the president thanking him for his gorilla ‘Hope’ campaign. Fairey’s method, he says, is counter to the typical boardroom, focus group orientated methods of advertising. Instead he references Martin Heidegger’s Theory of Phenomenology. Put simply, Phenomenology is ‘the process of letting things manifest themselves’, thus trusting his own artistic integrity that the popularity of the image would tie the written message to the idea of having Obama as a president. Speaking now in 2015 we can hardly contest it’s proficiency.

“What I’m trying to do is put something next to the advertising that calls it into question.”

– Shepard Fairey

Fairey’s first ‘Obey‘ project was originally an experiment in Phenomenology too. What started as a college inside joke, became a multimillion dollar profiting clothing brand for the street artist. Other notable artists critical of advertising, for better or worse, include: Les Levine, Victor Burgin, and Barbara Kruger (image below) whose work Supreme would later base their logo upon.

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Another famous link between the art and marketing worlds is summed up in the below letter written to one Andy Warhol:

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The connection between Art and Advertising is deeply rooted, if we look back to the Renaissance, artists such as Jan van Eyck paints the Arnolfinis by commission to send message of their marriage, Michelangelo promoted the doctrines of the catholic church by commission of Pope Julius II and David perpetuated Napoleon’s magnificence eternally by commission of King Charles IV of Spain. These are all examples of a grand image being created to promote an idea in exchange for money. Art in these examples is essentially advertising: an idea is being sold to the public through visual means. The concept described, in Art is named ‘patronage’, the patron being equivalent to a client.

“In an era when the ‘Obama Brand’ is part of everyday parlance due in no small part to Fairey’s work, debates over the line between art and advertising or authenticity and commercialism seem tired and passé. It becomes pressing instead to ask questions about what cultural and critical significance the brand has in contemporary capitalism.”
– Melissa Aronczyk

Patronage is an intriguing angle when approaching the cultural significance of brands today. It reminds us of a more primal and natural purpose for bodies to invest in Art which could invoke a fundamental and philosophical shift in the way that businesses interact with artists. 21st Century Patronage is the model being employed by London startup ELX who see themselves as matchmakers, empowering visual artists and commercial patrons through commissioning and creative collaboration. Their business model is based on the historic relationship between Art and Patrons rather than the sometimes confused and tangled minefield the relationship can become.

Conclusion: Study and employ the artistic method to not only capitalise on visual glory but find innovative and proficient professional methods and models.

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