Art and Consumerism: Super Bowl Edition

As a result of the rise of consumerism and technology, goods, including art, have been easily reproduced in advertising in order to endear consumers to stores and products. This reproducing of art has a long history; art forgery has existed since the Renaissance. In art studios, many famous artists trained their apprentices by having the apprentices reproduce past works. More recently, artists like Picasso have modernized older pieces of art in order to adapt it to the current era. One example of this reproduction and modernization is Vincent Van Gogh by Geoffrey Amelott. This piece is a reproduction of Vincent Van Gogh’s Self Portrait (1889) made out of lego blocks. It creates an optical illusion. If the viewer is familiar with the work of Vincent Van Gogh, they can see the image itself as the similarity in color composition triggers a memory of the original painting. Reproductions are also made to make money; many museums reproduce the most famous paintings in their collections in for people to take home as a memento which the museum in turn makes money from.

Popular culture, especially, is reproduced in advertisements because of the emotional attachment many people have to specific subjects and the renown many pieces of popular culture have. Take, for example, the Star Wars Volkswagen commercial which aired during the 2012 Super Bowl. The video, with the child dressed as Darth Vader and distinctive Imperial March theme, brings to mind being a child and trying to use the force after watching the Star Wars movies. Through this, the consumer creates a connection with the faceless child. When the Volkswagen comes to life (even it is through the power of the father’s car remote) it is as though those dreams of using the force came true through Volkswagen.

Music is most commonly reproduced in advertisements. Coca Cola’s America the Beautiful commercial reproduces the sentimentality that some may feel listening to the iconic song. By reproducing it in multiple languages, it makes sure that the song touches people no matter what language they speak. This sense of “inclusivity” and sentimentality is tied to Coca Cola, as these products unite the scenes in the commercial. Apple’s 1984 commercial creates a montage of climactic scenes from a cult classic book. By juxtaposing a scene in which a woman destroys a brainwashing machine (thus starting a revolution)  with an announcement for Apple’s new product, they argue that Apple will lead the revolution of technology.

The use of fine art in advertising is selective because it relies on knowledge of popular art pieces and unique interpretations of the piece to make the advertisement memorable and effective. Yet by using famous pieces of art, companies relate their goods to important cultural and historic work. Take, for example, Pantene’s Mona Lisa advertisement. It replaces Mona Lisa’s flat hair with that of a hair model. The by-line “restores age-damaged hair” almost makes one conclude that Pantene can fix 400+ year old hair, even on a painting.

Orbit’s Banana advertisement is based on Andy Warhol’s Banana. The ad reproduces the work in a series of vibrant colors before showing a half eaten image of the banana with a pack of orbit gum at the bottom. This is just one example of an ad which uses Andy Warhol’s work. Campbell soup used his piece Campbell Soup Cans in an ad promoting their products, and many of Warhol’s portraits of famous figures like Marilyn Monroe were used in a Japanese Coca-Cola commercial, where each was given a coke. Because Warhol used so much popular material culture in his works, it is easy for companies to adapt his work to their purposes, especially those companies whose things they worked with.

Finally, Renault Group used Picasso’s works in an advertisement for car safety in their products. By juxtaposing a Renault car (with the caption “with airbag” under it) with one of Picasso’s cubist portraits (with the caption “without airbag” under it), Renault Group used the disjointed eccentricity of Picasso’s style to humorously advertise the safety of their cars. That they used an artist who spent much of his life in France (though he himself was Spanish) connects the French company to the artistic history of that same country, creating a company playing off of their French identity. In this way, art can be manipulated to serve the wishes of companies through their advertisements. What other pieces have you seen reproduced in advertisements? How did it impact your feeling about the product it was selling?

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