Blurring the line between ads and art

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Blurring the line between ads and art

What happens when you drink Absolut Vodka? “You fall flat,” say partiers, “but with class.”
The notion of the tasty yet potent liquor’s classiness owes much to Absolut Vodka’s global advertising campaign. It began in New York City with Pop Art icon Andy Warhol, who loved the vodka bottle so much that he painted it and then suggested his protege Keith Haring do the same. Kenny Scharf, Armand Arman, LeRoy Neiman, Cesar, Pierre & Gilles and other artists followed.
Since the Absolut Art Collection began in 1985, richly imaginative works using the bottle shape and the blue logo have caught the attention of artists and the public alike. The Absolut campaign has resulted in an exciting harmony of art and adverting.
There have been stunning images by individual artists such as Damien Hirst (1999) and Nam June Paik (2000), and collections as well. Absolut Glasnost (1990) and Absolut Expressions (1997), for example, respectively featured 26 Soviet artists, including Alexander Kosolapov, Leonid Lamm and Evegny Mitta, and 14 African-American artists including Anita Philayaw, Frank Bowling and Malaika Favorite. To date, more than 400 artists have worked with Absolut.
This year, Francesco Bonami, the director of the 50th Venice Biennale, has included an exhibition titled Absolut Generations, featuring 13 leading artists who have worked with the bottle in the past.
For the Biennale, the artists chose to collaborate with emerging artists at the venue, the Palazzo Zenobio. In the works, the mentor-protege pairs have revealed creative dialogues while celebrating the history of the relationship between art and Absolut Vodka.
Olivier Gagnere, one of the most sophisticated interior and product designers of his generation, chose to work with Mathieu Mercier, the new-generation designer who was awarded the Marcel Duchamp prize this year. The result, titled “Absolut Mercier,” is a simple lamp featuring the Absolut bottle, an object d’art that reflects the Frenchmen’s design-meets-function philosophy.
“Absolut Salvino” is the result of a collaboration between Enzo Cucchi and his protege Andrea Salvino, both Italian. Cucchi, who was one of the most significant artists in reviving figurative art in the ’80s, is now considered a protagonist of the so-called “trans-avant-garde” movement in painting and drawing. Salvino, who is deeply influenced by subjects in contemporary mass media, enjoys provoking his audience by confronting the ethics and morality of society. Together the pair found harmony and proportion in their work, a decadent, burnt landscape, subtly reflecting today’s damaged environment.
Absolut Generations can be viewed at www.absolut.com/generations until the end of September.
Starting in September, Absolut Vodka Korea plans to launch an advertising campaign unique to Korea, details of which are still a secret.


by Ines Cho
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