03/
11/
15

Branding Lessons from the Venice Art Biennale

Venice Art Biennale, the internationally renowned, biannual art event that takes over Venice, Italy from May to November is not only of great social, cultural and political stature, it’s also a powerful marketing platform – for countries. It’s a place where Canada for instance, can be seen as a global brand and visitors can be made into global brand ambassadors. Perhaps the oldest and most prestigious contemporary art fair in the world has something to teach us about branding as well as art.

Each country participating in the Venice Art Biennale, selects its finest contemporary artist to represent the country in originality, innovation and relevance on the global art scene. It’s a task with many parallels to marketing that will seem familiar to brand managers of all kinds; the task of making a country or brand as desirable and irresistible as possible. Still, despite the Biennale delivering many stimulating experiences and plenty of valuable lessons on creative strategy, it has yet to become a destination for companies to send brand managers to glean what art professionals have been doing for years.

One brand, however, that can boast taking full advantage of everything the biennale has to offer is Italy’s very own Illycaffè. A prominent Italian coffee company, Illy has been one of the key sponsors of this famed art event for many years. Simply put, the Italian-based brand has made art and the search for beauty, central to how they do business. They’ve harnessed the emotional appeal of art by becoming one of the first coffee brands to use art collaborations to help elevate its brand’s core proposition and expand its soul.

According to Illy, “… the search for beauty isn’t merely a nice thing to do, or a marketing exercise, but a cornerstone of corporate culture and decision-making.” The coffee brand considers their coffee cup collaborations with prominent artists “Illy’s highest profile, ongoing cultural project”.

Their collaborations, just like art, are not about just seeing, but fully experiencing them, visually and emotionally. Illy has managed to build all the necessary sensory components to transform basic coffee consumption into a full aesthetic experience. At Arts & Labour, we say “bravi Illy!” while sipping their delicious espresso, proudly back in Canada.

In our next post, we’ll be exploring space, the new art-fusion frontier. Until then.

Venice art biennale 2015
Venice art biennale 2015
Illymind at the Venice art Biennale 2015
Illymind at the Venice art Biennale 2015
The optical art Illy Biennale Cafe x Tobias Rehberger at the Venice Art Biennale 2015
illymind at the Venice Art Biennale e 2015
illy cafe shipping container (closed) at the Venice Art Biennale 2015
illy cafe shipping container (open)at the Venice Art Biennale 2015
Illy Cafe bar x jeff koons, 2002
Illy Cafe bar x Tobias Rehberger at the london design week 2015
Illy Cafe x Robert Wilson art performance, 2014
Illy Cafe x Robert Wilson art performance, 2014

06/
10/
15

The Death of a Gift Shop

In recent years, museum gift shops’ artsy t-shirts, mugs and scarves have been greeted with a diminishing sense of enthusiasm. However, more progressive art organizations like the Walker Art Centre in Minneapolis and the New Museum in New York have started to reinvent the role of their gift stores. At Arts & Labour, we say it’s about time.

In the recent New York Times article “For the Walker Art Center, a Shop That Peddles Evanescence,” Melena Ryzik examines the changing responsibility of artists and museum shops. A new conceptual art pop-up store at the Walker aims to change the traditional notion of the gift shop. As Emmet Byrne, the Walker’s Museum’s design director explains, “it’s more about a digital bazaar with pieces priced to sell, an exhibition of sorts, with curated original artworks”. Michele Tobin, the gift shop’s retail director explains further, “the priority isn’t ‘get as much as you can’ for that item in the marketplace.”

This is great news. Many so-called cultural brands like museums and art institutes have been lagging behind commercial brands like Converse, H&M and Evian among many others who’ve been redefining the meaning of products and art much faster than most art organizations. With their innovative art integration, they’ve become effective in creating a new breed of merchandise widely recognized as artist collaborations or ‘art collabs’. Blurring boundaries between art and commerce, the French fashion house Louis Vuitton has become one of the front-runners in this movement and have quite imaginatively diminished the divide between art and merchandise. The unprecedented popularity of their sold-out collaborations with avant-garde artists like Takashi Murakami, Richard Prince and Yayoi Kusama have spoken for themselves.

In contrast, the majority of museums have only managed to widen the gap. By somehow turning desirable art into undesirable merchandise, they’ve turned their gift shops into uninspiring souvenir outlets. But while they’ve languished, successful commercial brands, thriving on being seen as innovative and relevant, have been savvy enough to stay ahead of the mainstream curve. By staying connected to groundbreaking designers, artists, creative directors, writers and photographers, they’ve been able to capture the ‘next big things’ and have stayed engaged in the necessary cultural and social dialogue that translates into greater popularity and greater revenues for their brands.

In our next post we’ll report back from the Venice Biennale, highlighting the latest in art fusion. See you then.

Drawing Club at Walker Open Field: A Collaborative Coloring Book, The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN, U.S.A.
Drawing Club at Walker Open Field: A Collaborative Coloring Book, The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN, U.S.A.
uniqlo sponsors FREE Friday nights at Moma, NY, U.S.A.
SMS # 5: Neil Jenny, Bucks Americana William Copley x Dmitri Petrov, new museum, NY, u.S.A.
SMS # 6: Bernar Venet, Astrophysics: William Copley x Dmitri Petrov, new museum, NY, u.S.A
Drawing Club at Walker Open Field: A Collaborative Coloring Book, The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN, U.S.A.
gift shop, Newseum, washington, D.C., u.s.a.
gift shop, toronto botanical gardens, toronto, ON, canada

15/
09/
15

Corporate Sponsorship 2.0

When corporations write a check to sponsor a cultural event only to have their logo displayed among many others on the back of a promotional booklet or a program, it’s clearly inconsistent with their marketing objectives. After all, in the ‘real’ world of day-today business, banks are competitors – each with a marketing mandate to stand out – same as the cable companies and credit cards they share the back of the pamphlet with. Yet in the ‘sponsorship’ world, they appear on promotional materials as unintentional allies. Every brand wants to be remembered for supporting art and culture. Yet, by using a hands-off, write-a-check approach, the opposite becomes reality. Each corporation’s name remains buried with all the others, completely unnoticed and forgotten.

As Todd Hirsch, in his recent Globe & Mail article ‘Corporate Sponsors of the Arts Are Missing Creative Opportunities’ points out, “corporate sponsorship of the arts has the potential to become something much more powerful than the feel-good recognition on opening night.” Indeed. To be noticed and remembered, corporations need to start using a hands-on approach. In other words, they need to stop behaving as passive sponsors and start acting as active collaborators. Instead of building long-distance corporate relationships, they need to start working closely with the organizations they support, be it arts or culture, and start developing something with greater meaning that is more memorable and therefore more valuable.

According to Ai Weiwei, the Chinese contemporary artist and activist, “The artist is an enemy of … general sensibilities “. These so-called ‘general sensibilities,’ are also an enemy of each and every brand. Brands today need to create new sensibilities and reinvent continuously to remain relevant and consequently memorable and desirable. If Mother Nature is about survival of the fittest, then brands are about survival of the most imaginative and innovative.

What could such an innovative approach look like? Imagine what local artists or filmmakers could create in collaboration with, say, a financial services sponsor in support of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Imagine something astounding, beautiful, thought-provoking and worthy of sharing. Now imagine the integration opportunities with TIFF membership packages and the TIFF shop and the sponsor’s branches across the GTA.

An artist collaboration would definitely make the sponsor stand apart –by taking an active and innovative role in the world of corporate sponsorships, and consequently by bringing its brand greater visibility and relevance. And the same would hold true for TIFF, being perceived as an even a more cutting-edge Canadian cultural household name. It’s a corporate sponsorship where everyone is a winner, even consumers who simply want to purchase the unique art collaboration ‘piece’.

The opportunities and advantages of hands-on corporate sponsorship are vast. First off, so few corporations go beyond the standard sponsorship ‘show my logo’ approach that doing something different would in and of itself generate new meaning. Second, seeing what’s perceived as a more traditional corporation being transformed by an art-fusion collaboration would suggest both a human and modern approach – invaluable for companies looking to amplify those aspects of their image.

We believe not before long we begin to lay ‘corporate sponsorships’ to rest and start nurturing ‘creative collaborations’. It’s time.

In our next post, we’ll be looking at the future of gift shops. Until then.

hands off’ ‘show my logo’ approach­­
Jennifer Aniston at Life Of Crime premiere at the TIFF in Toronto
COMME des GARçONs ‘HANDS ON’ approach in support of Ai WeiWei ‘UNDERGROUND’
Ai Weiwei x Comme des Garçons
BANANA REPUBLIC ‘HANDS ON’ approach in Support of Marriage Equality
HRC & Levi Strauss & Co. ‘HANDS ON’ approach in Support of Marriage Equality

09/
06/
15

Why art fusion’s early adopters are women

Art-fusion collaborations, if done right, come with a universal set of visual and emotional characteristics that are easy to identify with. For example, the ‘dotted’ art fusion between Louis Vuitton and Yayoi Kusama can be experienced as playful and imaginative, yet elegant and sophisticated. On the other hand, the ‘pure’ art fusion between Toronto’s über hip furniture store Mjök and the Italian designer Luca Nichetto, or the French mineral water brand Evian’s “Eau Couture” bottles have been perceived as beautiful and minimal, yet practical and sentimental. Belgian fashion designer Raf Simmons ‘rebel’ collaboration with Los Angeles-based artist Sterling Ruby could be characterized as disobedient, yet upscale.

In other words, the secret behind a successful art fusion is to effectively unite the emotional with its visual opposite and entwine each into an engaging story. Women, being so closely connected to the nature of storytelling, have proven to be the first to understand and engage, becoming relentless consumer champions of art-fusion collaborations. Certainly, seeing and experiencing a variety of contrasts is something women are comfortable with and even drawn to. It’s no wonder then that women have become art fusion’s early adopters.

As a result, women have also become targets for the majority of them. Whether it’s a matter of feeling or seeing, women have been able to distinguish and appreciate art fusion more readily than men, particularly the ones that stand out. Be it running shoes or a car collaboration, paradoxically targeted at men, it is women who tend to respond first, with great enthusiasm and readiness to buy in.

After all, art collaborations embody the universal yearnings for beauty, grace and imagination. Raf Simons and Sterling Ruby’s hand-painted bags and coats could easily dress women. Women could also outnumber men in purchasing the highly-priced, limited-edition Dom Pérignon Champagne “Balloon Venus’ collaboration with Jeff Koons, despite the lack of gender bias in its presentation.

The lesson learned? Brands targeting women should sit up and take note while brands targeting men should keep a watchful eye. The tide is turning on this marketing trend and with every tipping point, comes mass acceptance. Marketers of all kinds should remember a few important details.

FIRST, women aren’t just early adopters of art fusion, they are early ‘spreaders’. With their innate sense of ‘showing & telling ‘ women have been known to magically (aka virally) spread the word of collaborations that excite and interest them. Something even a high-budget advertising campaign could not outperform.

SECOND, women, as sophisticated and communicative as they are, have nurtured an ability to sense a successful art fusion when they see one. However the opposite holds equally true; they recognize run-of-a mill, half-hearted attempts easily, either passing on their critique to friends and followers or ignoring the attempt all together.

THIRD, in each art-fusion collaboration, every detail counts, visible or not. Just as in a good story, it’s about what’s not being said, rather than about what is. Art-fusion is about storytelling, which is something women tend to navigate towards, and enjoy being seduced by.

And that’s what good marketing is all about isn’t it? Enjoyable seduction.

In our next post, we’ll be looking at the future of corporate sponsorships, or rather at the rise of ‘creative collaborations’. Until then.

Yayoi Kusama x Louis Vuitton
George Clooney: “Yayoi Kusama depicted me covered in polka dots. She made me Snoopy!”
Elie Saab x Evian
Kate Moss for Raf Simons x Sterling Ruby
Alice Rohrwacher for Miu Miu
Alice Rohrwacher for Miu Miu
Miranda July for Miu Miu
Miranda July for Miu Miu

19/
05/
15

So long store displays – Hello art installations

Fashion, often the most forward-looking and savvy of retail marketers, offers many valuable lessons to the rest of the retail industry. Fashion’s latest tutorial in the art of drawing a crowd could yet again be of great service to retailers who are ready and willing to learn, regardless of category. What’s the lesson you wonder?

A handful of pioneering fashion designers and brands, have started to put emphasis not only on designing new collections, but also on the way their latest ready-to-wear lines will be presented. Departing from the conventional use of mannequins in store displays, they’ve been outfitting each collection with its very own art installation. Simply put, it’s no longer only about the spectacle seen during Fashion Week in Paris, London or New York, but also about spectacles created directly in the retail stores in Chicago, Berlin or Shanghai. Why stray from the tried and true approach of merchandising, you ask?

As all retailers know, the competition between online and in-store traffic is growing increasingly fierce. Drawing consumers out of their homes and into your store now requires more and more marketing muscle. What the fashion industry has found is a new way to compete with online retail by providing irresistible experiences that can only be found in the physical stores. In addition to producing their own ready-to-wear collections, emerging fashion designers like Paris-based Simone Rocha or Tokyo-based Julien David have become known for taking on the additional creative task of designing their own store and often even the all-important window displays. Their installations reveal the designers’ conceptually driven motives that go well beyond the expected and have become a phenomenon fashion bloggers and journalists have started to eagerly anticipate.

London-based Selfridges and Dover Street Market, Paris-based Colette and Le Bon Marché, and Milan-based 10 Corso Como are among the department stores that have become known for pioneering the approach of presenting their collections as ever-changing art forms. Fashion designers are given free rein to design store spaces and window displays that are true experiences, drawing shoppers and social media attention even after closing hours.

In fashion, the name of the game is no longer only about new products, but also about new spaces – two equally strategic partners and one enormous force. As our eyes go to London, Paris and Milan for inspiration and appreciation, our marketing minds and creative hearts hope that more retail stores will join in by collaborating with local artists and designers to create their own unique store displays and window installations. What better, more soul-satisfying way to compete with online retail than with attention-drawing art right in the stores and on the streets?

In our next post, we’ll take a closer look at art fusion’s early adopters. See you soon.

SELFRIDGES LONDON & Simone Rocha
SELFRIDGES LONDONK & Simone Rocha
DOVER STREET MARKET NEW YORK & Simone Rocha
DOVER STREET MARKET NEW YORK & Simone Rocha
Louis Vuitton, TOKYO
Louis Vuitton, TOKYO
UNDERCOVER, SHANGHAI
UNDERCOVER, SHANGHAI
Dover street market ginza TOKYO & Julien david
Dover street market NEW YORK & Julien david

14/
04/
15

Do limited editions create limitless desire?

It’s not a secret that over the last decade, the popularity of art-fusion collaborations has grown dramatically. While the most talked-about collaborations seem to come and go in a flash of white-hot attention, the less successful ones linger behind in social-media silence, in hopes of one day selling out.

One decision a brand embarking on an art-fusion collaboration must face is whether to make their product plentiful and part of their regular line, or to conceive it as a capsule collection (AKA, limited edition). Is the potential for higher demand worth sacrificing the potential of moving a higher volume of product?

Let’s look at some examples.
In Comme des Garçons’ multiple collaborations with New York fashion brand, Supreme, the brands chose to create capsule collections. They also chose to make consumers jump through quite a few hoops in order to even become eligible to make their ‘must-have’ purchase. The pre-requisite for each Comme des Garçons x Supreme collaboration is that every online shopper must first apply to buy. Second, the keen online shopper must then wait until his or her name is chosen and pre-qualified for an online purchase. Last, only on the day the collection launches, the selected shopper is notified by email about his or her eligibility to order online while the limited quantities last.

While this may sound discouraging to many consumers, it’s important to recognize that to these brands’ target consumer, it is irresistible.

Let’s look at the other side of the coin.
H&M engages regularly in collaborations – with Martin Margiela, Isabel Marant and Lanvin, to name a few. Usually, on the day the launch, H&M packs its selected worldwide locations with immense amounts of the collection, creating a sense of plenty rather than scarcity. If the collection doesn’t sell extremely well in the first few days, the unsold pieces from the collection often remain scattered across the stores, while many of the sold pieces quickly make their way to eBay resellers.

If eBay can be considered a value indicator, then CDG x Supreme pieces clearly outmuscle the H&M collaborations. Not only by their outstanding resale value, but also by their distinctive promise that the collection will be worn only by a limited number of people on the streets, bringing prestige not only to the brands themselves, but also to their highly sophisticated customers.

So do the benefits of a capsule collection outweigh their smaller profit potential you ask? If art-fusion collaborations are about infusing newness and relevance while consequently increasing desire and reducing need to sell, then ‘less is more’ is the preferable formula. Consider it an investment in brand equity. Even for brands with deep pockets, doing highly selective and perhaps less frequent capsule collections can bring a higher return on their investment in the long run. Building a reputation for creating irresistible art-fusion collaborations that come in small numbers accompanied by high-demand is a dream more brands will eventually find worth pursuing.

In our next post, we’ll take a closer look into the disappearance of store displays and mannequins. See you then.

Neil Young Supreme Poster
Neil Young Supreme Poster
Supreme x Undercover
Supreme x Undercover
Chloë Sevigny for Supreme x Comme des Garçons
Supreme x Comme des Garçons
Supreme x comme des garçons
Supreme x comme des garçons
H&M x Maison Martin Margiela
H&M x Maison Martin Margiela
H&M x Isabel Marant
H&M x Isabel Marant

17/
03/
15

A picture that’s worth a thousand words – And more for some

Like design or fashion products, art-fusion collaborations don’t come truly alive till fully digested by the greater public. To be fully legitimized, they too require their necessary components that will further validate their artistic, cultural and social relevance further. What kind of components you ask?

Today’s fashion and design brands, other than having pioneering products to begin with, require teams of experts to carry their meanings further. It’s professionals like photographers, journalists, magazine editors, models, agents, advertising agencies, distributors, storekeepers, buyers for department stores, salespersons, and museum curators who communicate vision of brands’ creative and production teams onto their consumers.

Naturally, it is a handful of creative experts who also help shaping and transmitting art-fusion collaborations to the greater public. It’s specially art-fusion collaborations’ specialists that are sensible to selecting and working with the most imaginative and unorthodox photographers and writers who can make it or break it. Whether through social media or word-of-mouth, it’s their creative content that’s capable of feeding all the relevant cultural and social channels. The more pioneering the visual and written content is, the faster and deeper it can penetrate and influence the consumers.

Art-fusion collaborations that lack, no matter how small of an oversight will easily manifest weaknesses that may not be noticeable to the naked eye at first, but perceivable immediately by other senses, like feelings. Since art-fusion collaborations are about making products or events irresistible, being aware of every possible detail that’s influencing people’s emotions, i.e. turning their desires ‘on’ and rather instantly is critical. If selecting the most suitable creative team of experts like art-collaborations specialists, photographer and writers, could be recognized as essential as selecting the most relevant artist or a designer to collaborate with, then for many brands increasing their success of art-fusion collaborations would be that much greater.

Unfortunately, at Arts & Labour we’ve noticed many art-fusion collaborations that had a considerable potential to start with, but were lacking just that – providing middle-of-the-road photography that’s too predictable, as well as narratives that simply neither inspired nor offered much to get excited about. In other words they were burying every effort the brand has put in in the first place.

That being said, our hat goes down to brands like of Kelly Weastler and Mjölk that are rather small but have managed to provide the blogosphere with captivating and innovative imagery that has fortified their already well-designed and developed art collaborations so much further. Of course, not to mention the continuous art-fusion collaborations of larger brands like the high-end Louis Vuitton or low-end Converse that constantly provide us with a spectacular feast we can at least indulge in, even if not purchase the product.

What are the pros and cons of art-fusion collaboration as a capsule collection? Do come back to our next post where we examine just that.

JUERGEN TELLER, PHOTOGRAPHER
JUERGEN TELLER FOR MARC JACOBS MEN
Hans Ulrich Obrist, art curator and writer
bill cunningham, style PHOTOGRAPHER for The New york TIMES
Lynn Yaeger, Fashion Journalist
Mathias Augustyniak & Michael Amzalag, Art Directors
Kelly Weastler x shantell Martin
Kelly Weastler x shantell Martin
Kelly Weastler x shantell Martin
Kelly Weastler x shantell Martin
Mjölk x Anderssen x Voll
Mjölk x Anderssen x Voll

24/
02/
15

Preventing art-fusion failure

According to Denis Freedman, Creative Director of Barneys New York, “… collaboration is the basis of what we try to do, and we try to work with as many people in as many fields as possible. We always make clear it is a collaboration, something that we or they (the artists) would never do on our own, because it results in far more interesting work”. But Barneys remains ahead of the game. Along with the support of their own visual design team, Barneys partners with creative marketing consultancies whose specialty is managing art-fusion collaborations. From every project’s conception through to execution, they invest in a team to ensure the most exceptional outcome – be it a campaign, product or event.

Needless to say, a relatively inventive department store like Barney’s is much closer than its competitors to the prediction Andy Warhol made when he declared, “all department stores will become museums, and all museums will become department stores”. So far, only a very few number of stores have turned themselves into museums of style, culture and art. Dover Street Market with its locations in London, Tokyo and New York, and 10 Corso Como in Milan are the only shining examples, while a great many museums have started to rely on their gift shops as sources of revenue.

Indeed, transforming a department store into a museum or vice-versa, where one can feel truly stimulated and inspired to shop, takes a team of experts who are as knowledgeable as they are passionate about art, culture, design and retail. James B. Twitchell, the author and professor of English and Advertising at the University of Florida understands this only too well. By claiming that “art has become a central vocabulary for narratives now attached to fast-moving consumer goods”, he provides the retail industry with a rather challenging solution. One that’s no longer in the hands of business-minded retailers, but of innovative and imaginative creative collaboration consultancies. The emerging creative consultancies offer some things that neither brand managers nor advertising agencies can; discerning and ultra-current knowledge of the global art and design landscape, a roster of leading artists whose work not only lends itself well to brand collaborations but are amenable to them, a highly developed understanding of culture and style, and expertise in managing and nurturing potentially fragile artistic collaborations to their most successful ends.

Unlike Barneys, many brands (including Canadian ones) have not yet grasped the importance of having specialized creative collaboration consultants on board, and instead prefer to ‘DIY’. Is it possible that Canadian marketers aren’t thinking big enough for their brands? Could it be the reason we’re not experiencing at least a handful breathtaking art collaborations made in Canada?

Like Barney’s, brands will and have begun to grasp that navigating through the collaborative process and achieving the desired result is more complex than most are equipped to handle. For brands that understand the need to become or stay relevant by infusing their brand with art, they’ll be happy to know that delegating the collaborative process to creative teams of visual and cultural experts is not only the right step, but also the far easier one – be it their first or twenty-first project.

Are you curious about the creative experts who are shaping and transmitting art-fusion collaborations to the greater public? Please comment or contact us if you’d like more information. See you in our next post.

Henzel Studio x Barneys New York for FRieze art Fair
Henzel Studio x Barneys New York for FRieze art Fair
baz dazzled window installations by Baz Luhrman FOR Barneys New York
baz dazzled window installations by Baz Luhrman FOR Barneys New York
Dover street market London, window installation
Dover street market London, window installation
Dover Street Market New York, Store Installation
Hover Title
10 corso como milan, store installation
10 corso como milan, store installation
Dover Street Market New York, Blood & Roses Store Installation
Dover Street Market New York, Blood & Roses Store Installation
V&A Museum London, gift shop
V&A Museum London, gift shop

13/
01/
15

5 fascinating things about art fusion that brands must know

For artists and brands alike, engaging in art-fusion collaborations has become the new norm. But still, well-executed collaborations are a phenomenon consumers can’t seem to get enough of. After all, they can breathe life into brands, give voice to artists, and at the same time, infuse our everyday lives with beauty and meaning that nourish our deeper longings. Which brings one to wonder, why have there have been so few ‘Made in Canada’ art-fusion collaborations?

At Arts & Labour, while cheering as much for Canadian artists as for Canadian brands, we wanted to provide some interesting facts for brand directors to consider when planning their next branding campaign. May this win them over? Our fingers remain crossed.

5. Art-fusion builds social media & blogger talk-value.
A compelling art-fusion collaboration can easily outpace the awareness and buzz-value generated by a multi-million dollar advertising campaign. But ultimately, it comes down to a simple, old-fashioned principle: people talk when there’s something worth talking about. Social media is nothing more than word-of-mouth. In other words, creating art-fusion that’s socially, culturally, as well as aesthetically relevant is what it takes to turn the social media taps on. We can still hear the buzz created by Jeff Koons’ limited edition Balloon Dog handbag developed in collaboration with H&M last summer.

4. Art-fusion expands beyond the traditional model of advertising.
The beauty of art fusion is that both the artist and the brand are creating something of value and relevance to society, while the marketing benefit is simply a byproduct of the inherent interest the union creates. A well-engineered art-fusion collaboration can even surpass the most exhilarating and innovative advertising campaign. The most recent collaboration between German sporting brand Adidas and West Hollywood art gallery HVW8’s two inspiring minds Kevin Lyons and Jean André. The resulting work, All Day I Dream About Stripes, challenged every product launch strategy rule there is. Instead of a traditional storeroom launch of the four new shoes, the kick off took a place as a part of a show at the HVW8 art gallery, followed by a series of international events, including an installation at the Art Basel in Miami and a few pop-up gallery shows across Europe. Only after fully indulging the art crowds, the collaboration has become available for purchase at regular retailers, now dripping with integrity and ‘must-have’ credibility. The success of All Day I Dream About Stripes has been based on providing a design-savvy, sophisticated audience with equally sophisticated products, presented in a very sophisticated way.

3. Art-fusion increases desire and reduces the need to sell.
A few brands have built their reputations on creating irresistible art-fusion collaborations in small numbers – which in return have garnered enormous desire and high-demand. It’s a simple equation really; the more irresistible an art-fusion product is, the more desire it generates on its own, requiring less traditional marketing to ‘sell’ it to consumers. The Cambridge Satchel Company with its capsule collections has become a prime example of an overnight brand phenomenon celebrated just for that.

2. Art-fusion reaches new and wider audiences.
While art has always played the role of visual philosopher to stimulate thought, beliefs and emotion in our culture, art fusion is able to spread the experience of art more broadly, reaching a larger, more mainstream audience and imbuing everyday life with the art experience. The French luxury brand Louis Vuitton’s collaborations have been continuously zeroing in on new markets. Be it in the Asian or Russian market, Louis Vuitton with its playful, yet sophisticated approach to art collaborations has become the role model for many brands to follow. Last year’s collaboration with the six ‘iconoclasts’ interpreting the now iconic ‘LV’ Monogram has confirmed Louis Vuitton as the world’s most widely recognized and desired global luxury brand.

1. Art-fusion infuses a brand with innovation and originality.
For many brands, good product design brings innovation, product differentiation and meaningful consumer involvement. But design alone does not offer an emotionally transformative experience. Innovative art fusion brings newsiness and talk-value, creates a feeling of excitement and generates genuine interest. For Converse, the century-old shoemaker, originality and relevance go hand-in-hand with tradition. Creating art-fusion collaborations with culturally and politically engaged artists has helped Converse to be identified as the ‘rebel’ brand and to remain relevant and ‘cool’ to this day. No small feat.

In our next post, we’ll shine a spotlight the most striking art-fusion collaborations of 2014. See you then.

JEFF KOONS x H&M
JEFF KOONS x H&M
LADY GAGA x JEFF KOONS x H&M
FROM THE GALA OPENING RECEPTION, JEFF KOONS x H&M
HVW8 X ADIDAS
HVW8 X ADIDAS
HVW8 X JEAN ANDRÉ x ADIDAS
HVW8 X JEAN ANDRÉ x ADIDAS
HVW8 X KEVIN LYONS x ADIDAS
HVW8 X KEVIN LYONS x ADIDAS
Cambridge Satchel Company x FARROW & BALL
Cambridge Satchel Company x VIVIENNE WESTWOOD
LOUIS VUITTON MONOGRAM x CINDY SHERMAN
LOUIS VUITTON MONOGRAM x REI KAWAKUBO
LOUIS VUITTON MONOGRAM x KARL LAGERFELD
LOUIS VUITTON MONOGRAM x KARL LAGERFELD
Futura x Hennessy x Converse Chuck Taylor
COLETTE x Converse Chuck Taylor

02/
12/
14

Comparison & Review: Art Toronto & Feature Art Fair

If one had to choose between feeling overwhelmed or inspired, exhausted or refreshed, the decision would be simple. Along the same lines, being able to predict your reaction to an art fair is actually quite simple as well. How, you ask? Isn’t all art there to inspire and refresh, even in its most challenging forms? Perhaps. Yet a lot of art today, or at least the way it’s presented, can do just the opposite, leaving us feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. The secret to a viewers’ reaction to the work of a collection of artists’ or an art fair lies in a simple, unsurprising word: curation.

While the majority of art fairs today focus on variety and volume, a handful pride themselves in showcasing curated content. This fall, two art fairs, the Toronto International Art Fair and Feature Contemporary Art Fair, took place at the same time, in the same city, each offering a very different experience.

The Toronto International Art Fair (Art Toronto) was held in the sprawling Metro Convention Centre, while Feature Contemporary Art Fair (Feature) took place in the restored heritage building of the Joey & Toby Tanenbaum Opera Centre. Art Toronto is a modern and contemporary fine art fair and is considered a must-attend event for art collectors, art educators and other industry professionals. The fair showcases more than 100 galleries from around the world with a wide variety of Canadian and international artists. Feature, with only 23 galleries and 60 artists represented, is a curated alternative to Art Toronto. Feature is dedicated to Canadian cutting edge contemporary art, showcasing only artists whose practices have demonstrated an outstanding ability to innovate, challenge and inspire.

My experience attending both shows brought their differences into sharp focus. Cruising aisle upon aisle at Art Toronto and covering what feels like miles in an afternoon, it’s hard not to glaze over after the first hour or two. The feeling isn’t dissimilar to that of shopping at a mall in December. While there is impressive art to be seen, the venue commoditizes it and in a way, devalues it.

Visiting Feature was an entirely different experience. If Art Toronto’s goal is to gather as much art as possible in one place in order to sell it, Feature’s focus is to educate and break down the traditional ways of seeing and buying art. As Julie Lacroix, the director of AGAC (L’Association des galleries d’art contemporain), the fair’s organizer puts it “… each gallery at Feature is presenting a fluid exhibit with the pieces working together to create a more unified tone, rather than disparate art placed together for convenience. It’s an opportunity not to make the visitors feel overwhelmed, but to give them time and space to appreciate each individual piece of art.”

Another striking difference was Feature’s attention to detail. Their innovative logo, designed by the Montréal-based multidisciplinary studio Bureau Principal, was integrated throughout. From its playfully designed website, through the matching scarves worn by the gallery attendants, to the art catalogue and signage system, Feature showed maturity and sophistication on a much greater scale. By emphasizing not only the importance of art, but also the space and the way in which the art was presented, Feature offers a lesson along with its stimulating experience: every detail counts. And while curation is the key to providing a positive experience for the viewer, it also has the effect of enhancing the value of the product in question.

As good a lesson for brands as it is for art fair organizers.

In our next post we’ll list five things about art fusion that brands must know. See you then.

Toronto International Art Fair 2014, Toronto
Toronto International Art Fair 2014, Toronto
Feature Contemporary Art Fair 2014, Toronto
Feature Contemporary Art Fair 2014, Toronto
Feature Contemporary Art Fair 2014, Toronto
Feature Contemporary Art Fair 2014, Toronto
Feature Contemporary Art Fair 2014, Toronto
Feature Contemporary Art Fair 2014, Toronto
Feature Contemporary Art Fair 2014, Toronto
Feature Contemporary Art Fair 2014, Toronto