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09th Jul 2010

Bravo’s Work of Art’s Audi Commercial

Bravo’s new reality TV series, Work of Art is continues to get press—bad press from arts media and artists, yet can be understood as a successful program as its ratings continue to grow.

This is the way of commercial TV, which is definitely not to be mistaken at any time for PBS, including when it comes to a show about fine art.  To make this perfectly clear, in the same time slot as Work of Art, on the following night is another reality show, Bethany Getting Married. Bethany is also one of the Real Housewives of New York.

The latest episode of Work of Art spawned a new controversy as within it, Trump Apprentice fashion, was a product placement commercial for Audi. While other reality shows may include product plugs in their assignments—which certainly helps pay for the show’s production costs, somehow, because this show is about fine art (OK, artists who are attempting to be fine artists), it is criticized.

Huh?

Fine artists created “commercials”, product placement, branding long before these things had names in any ancient language.

Got any coins or paper money? Artists put the face of Alexander the Great on coins, giving him branding and helping unify his vast empire. Artists created scenes of their governments conquering heroes, promoting them and making them immortal, long before anyone actually ran for office. And no company or person has ever come close to the way that the Catholic Church and Holy Roman Empire used art for branding, advertising, PR, and yes, even product placement. You can easily see this in most of the world’s greatest art museums and sites. Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Donatello, Matisse, etc., anyone?

The critics—the writers questioning the Audi product placement  are all earning a living from media that is supported by advertising, whether a blog with Google Ads or print ads like those in the LA Times.

Isn’t art always, in some way also a kind of media?  What makes art so holy that artists or art distribution streams, such as a TV show cannot benefit from sponsorship? [Note: for Holy Art see a previous paragraph re the Catholic Church.]

The artist-contestants have been criticized for not openly questioning or commenting upon the “Audi commercial” inside the show, as apparently this should be understood as shocking.

What shocked me was that not a single artist grabbed up any – not a darn shred—of literature from the Audi showroom to either use in collages, as models for their art piece, or even as surfaces to paint upon. Not one artist used an Audi car image, exterior or interior —a definitely Audi image—in their work. To be fair, one artist did use the product name and logo in a humorous Word Art piece. Neither the winner nor runner up included any reference to Audi in their works.

If there is now a taboo about making art with product images, do we need to toss out Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup cans or Brillo boxes? If instead of an Audi ride and showroom, the same artist-contestants were taken to a supermarket, might we have seen product images in the contestants’ art pieces?

So far, none of the critics  focused on the fact that the real art world cast of the show, Simon de Pury, Bill Powers, Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, Jerry Saltz, and guest judge Richard Phillips never commented negatively or questioned Audi’s “commercial” within the show. They are art world savvy. They know that automobile manufacturers, banks, wines and liquors, retailers, media, etc., sponsor art shows and events. Sponsor = patron = advertising usually — and a wise museum director, curator, artist and critic knows this and is grateful for the arts funding.

As an artist, I kind of think that Audi can be seen as a patron to the show and also the artist-contestants, who are delighted with the free flow of art supplies and studio space that they are enjoying. I say bring on the sponsors and, (pun intended) Bravo to companies that helps foster interest in Contemporary Art and artists!

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2 Responses to “Bravo’s Work of Art’s Audi Commercial”

  1. Darren Daz Cox Says:

    I’m not sure that the artists were asked to include the driving an Audi part of the experience in the art but simply to have that as an option and most of them didn’t use that part in the work.

    We didn’t see every scrap of film they shot in the showroom so it is possible that brochures were looked at and them a choice made not to use them.

    One artist did make a collage with cars in it…

    I understand the importance of sponsorship but you don’t have to be obligated to have the sponsor influence the art!!!

    It’s TV and even on PBS you get an edited point of view but it’s better than no reality artist show!

  2. Colorful Visions Says:

    If an artist gets commissioned by a corporation isn’t that a success? Having a high paying, national or international client? Of course. I like BMW’s new commercial that has the Kinetic Sculpture and credits the artist in the beginning… BRAVO!! And Audi is Bravo-ing art, showing it’s support by allowing the Work Of Art to continue and increase in viewers and sponsorship.
    On Top Chef (culinary arts) Ziploc, Glad and many other companies have product placement and no one is yiping about the culinary creators being sell-outs! Please! I love when artists get PAID and PROMOTED and EXPOSED to the world!!!

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