With the 2011 Art Basel gala in full swing this week in Miami, all of the pieces being sold for high prices, and artists being “discovered” I can’t help but think about how the modern art movement has influenced the world of advertising and vice versa. Throughout advertising’s lifespan artists, like celebrities, have been attached to brands in the hopes of boosting sales. Sometimes this has helped to raise the name and recognition of the artist, like Norman Rockwell who started his career illustrating ads for companies but has since become more widely recognized as a fine artist than a pitchman. Rockwell’s advertisment for Green Giant corn nibblets can be seen below.
In contrast, companies have also mimicked the style of their ads to be reminiscent of well-known artists to help raise their own credibility (and avoid paying the artist I would imagine). Take for example the 1980′s ad for Pepsi seen below, one of many companies to “borrow” the style of Andy Warhol.
This approach can backfire on a brand if it borrows too much. Just last month a group of graffiti artists sued car company, Fiat for using their murals multiple times in the background of their new TV spots featuring Jennifer Lopez.
Back to how this relates to Art Basel. Artists who have shown at the Miami fair are the next generation of household names in the fine art world, and we can already see how they are capitalizing on this. Sheppard Fairey, whose work has been at the fair multiple times, has made a business of marketing his known style. He has created CD album artwork for names like Led Zepplin, done movie marketing, and most notably created the “Hope” poster for the Barack Obama presidential campaign (although he did not make any money off that project).
New Haven, CT born artist Sket-One who has participated in Art Basel, is also heavily involved in the world of advertising. A graffiti artist and illustrator, he has also been helping promote other companies for years. On the product side, his character illustrations have been licensed to create custom collectible toys for companies like Kid-Robot and Solid Industries (one of his toy designs can be seen below). On the marketing side, he has worked for ad agencies in New Haven and now LA in the Sports, Video Gaming and Entertainment Arenas.
All in all, this new generation of artists are not averse to attaching their names to a brand if it also helps them further their own awareness or it falls in line with their own values. The question is more for marketers: do you want to attach your product and reputation to an outside entity? As a brand manager you must also do your homework on who you approach as a partner to help promote your products. A good number of the more popular modern artists have been making their name off criticizing the very ads created to sell your items. Well-known artists like Ron English, Zevs, Banksy, and others have made their name attacking the very idea of consumerism.
And finally, if you do make the choice to work with a fine artist, be sure to actually ask permission or purchase the rights to do so. With all the technology and tracking capabilities in our grasp today, there’s no such thing as “flying under the radar.”