There has always been a thin line between art and commerce, but in the past year the line has grown ever thinner as artists freely appropriate commercial concepts. The results have sparked controversial murmurs, as typically classical masterpieces have been infused with political spin. Whereas historically, it was not uncommon to hire artists to create advertising campaigns, this movement is turning that notion upside down. Jean-Charles de Castelbajac of Casablanca has gained notoriety by hijacking popular imagery and adding a cultural twist. His latest exhibition entitled Triumph of the Sign, showcases a series of western reproductions infused with recognizable branding. Interestingly, these works were painted in China, complementing the idea of mass market demand.
Last year, 26 year old art student Nadia Plesner caused a stir and triggered a lawsuit when she created a t-shirt with the image of an emaciated Darfuri boy carrying what appears to be a Louis Vuitton bag. Plesner’s goal was to create a stir over the lack of media coverage devoted to the Darfurian crisis. “In the western world our collective identity is based solely on logos and brands and how much we can resemble celebrities from show business. We are raised by advertising and it is the only language we understand and respond to. Therefore, Darfur’s only chance of survival is to brand itself as a commercial phenomenon and imitate the popular trends of the west.” Needless to say, LVMH wasn’t pleased about the appropriation of their logo-bedecked bag and fought back with vengeance. This scenario is particularly interesting, as LVHM has become popular for commissioning artists to reinterpret their infamous monogram. The Darfuitton Bag Plesner designed was in fact based off of Takeshi Murakami‘s comissioned work, presenting a commercial evolution of artistic interpretation.
This past February, MoMA launched a subway advertising campaign in collaboration with The Happy Corp where 57 works from the private collection were distributed throughout various New York City subway platforms. No sooner did the ads go up, Doug Jaeger and his Poster Boy accomplice were caught remixing the images they were paid to promote. While many have viewed this guerilla marketing campaign as vandalism, others have acknowledged this appropriation as a statement on modern art. “What I would hope is that it would cause debate and generate some argument, at a minimum,” said Jaeger, a thought that many should embrace, including the MoMA marketing team.
Additional Contribution by Emily Gup