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

03/
02/
15

Standing Ovation ’14: Our Fav. Collabs from Around the World

Every year, we like to step back, evaluate and applaud the brands and artists who have inspired and elated us with their teamwork. This time around we’ve based our selection on collaborations that have been successful at walking the line of artistic integrity while still achieving accessibility, allowing them to benefit the public at large. We’ve handpicked art-fusion collaborations we felt were approachable, but also relevant – either environmentally, socially or culturally across the full spectrum – to everyone from children to seniors, pedestrians to drivers, shoppers to spectators.

Here are the three that rose to the very top.

Park in Art: “The Z” & Gilbert’s Bedrock Real Estate Services.
Put a ten story building, 33,000 square feet of future retail space, 1,300 parking spots and 27 internationally recognized artists together and what do you get? According to Dan Mullen, the vice president of development at Gilbert’s Bedrock Real Estate Services in Detroit, you get “… a place of destination and a place to visit time and time again.” Judging by the many visitors and locals alike who come back to “the Z” again and again while snapping photograph after photograph to share on pretty much every social media platform available, he’s right.

In her photo-essay Park in Art,” Sharon Vanderkaay, a Detroit-born artist and designer accurately remarked, “The Z could have been just another utilitarian design in a city that needs new infrastructure. But Dan Gilbert choose to make the most of this opportunity to reinforce Detroit’s image as a fascinating, optimistic, human place. Also this venture sends the message that creative approaches are welcome here.” Hats off to Gilbert’s Bedrock Real Estate Services for such a bold and beautiful move.

“The Z” was curated by Detroit’s own Library Street Collective who not only undertook the task of curating, but also managing the logistics of inviting, scheduling and hosting the 27 international artists to actually paint the 10 story building. The end result is an astonishing parking garage that not only showcases artists’ work, but also allows Detroit to hold an important survey of today’s emerging new muralism. The project is a valuable documentation of contemporary aesthetics that feed contemporary art forms today. Well-done LSC!

Restoration LEGO: ‘Dispatchwork’ by Jan Vormann.
Although the Dispatchwork project started back in 2009, it’s only in recent years that it has grown into something of a global movement. As of today, the project has been adopted by over 100 cities around the globe, including our very own Toronto. A German artist, Jan Vormann, took the initial task of improving appearances of public spaces by inserting pieces of LEGO to seal cracks and crevices in broken walls of urban structures. Even though the repairs were temporary, the playful and imaginative ‘hands-on’ approach has been offering immediate appreciation and joy to all who see them.

Since 2009, many other urban participants worldwide, took up Jan Vormann’s vision and have started to create their own LEGO patches in their own cities. Through the Dispatchers forum When & Where, anyone interested can apply to participate and share their photographs with their own artistic patches. Even though the project wasn’t originally initiated by LEGO, at least not officially, it demonstrates the incredible force a global brand can achieve, be it in Beijing or Beirut. Congrats LEGO & Jan Vormann!

The Politics of Fashion: Sterling Ruby & Raf Simons.
Just as the Los Angeles-based artist Sterling Ruby’s installations and sculptures can overwhelm viewers with their colour, size and texture, so can his political views. With this fashion collaboration, the German-born artist did not compromise, but brought his personal politics into fashion and fashion back into politics. In collaborating with the Belgian designer Raf Simons, Ruby demonstrated that art and fashion can coexist, benefit and influence each other. Even though the menswear collection included highly-priced, hand-dyed, limited-edition pieces accessible only to a select group, its political and aesthetic impact was felt democratically across all ranks of the fashion and art industry. Nicely done.

We hope all three can hear our applause all the way from Canada.

In our next post, we’ll take a look at how to prevent art-fusion collaborations from potential failures. See you then.

“THE Z” x B
“THE Z” x B
“THE Z” x Hense
“THE Z” x Hense
“THE Z” x San Sebastian
“THE Z” x San Sebastian
Dispatchwork, Toronto, Canada
Dispatchwork, Tel Aviv, Israel
Dispatchwork, Berlin, Germany
Dispatchwork, Bocchignano, Italy
Sterling Ruby x Raf Simons, HAND-PAINTED PARKA
Sterling Ruby x Raf Simons, HAND-PAINTED PARKA
Sterling Ruby x Raf Simons, HAND-PAINTED BAG
Sterling Ruby x Raf Simons, HAND-PAINTED BAG

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

11/
11/
14

Know & Tell

The most inspiring small, upstart brands are the ones that seem to know themselves from the get go. They have a strong point of view and more than a little courage. It’s little wonder that these brands also happen to be the ones that fearlessly engage in art-fusion collaborations, not only as a way to build their name, but also as a way to express their personality.

The über hip furniture store Mjölk in Toronto’s Junction area is a perfect example and a great source of inspiration. The timelessly modern, yet markedly original pieces of design they carry, along with the store’s strong aesthetic sensibility, cause some to consider it more of a gallery of Northern and Eastern design than a traditional retail outlet.

Mjölk’s decision to collaborate with international artists and designers on a regular basis has become not only the bedrock of their brand’s identity, but a way to ensure originality, simplicity and exceptional beauty in all the products they carry. For Mjölk, the most crucial aspect of collaborative process is establishing a mutually respectful relationship with each and every prospective artist or designer. So they do their homework. When they feel they know as much as they can about a potential collaborator, Mjölk goes farther than most small brands would consider in the age of Skype and conference calls.

They hop on a plane.

Whether it be to Japan, Sweden or Denmark, they feel it’s of utmost importance to fill the gaps that technology can leave, and meet the artist in person. Only then do they feel they can intimately understand each artist’s school of thought and vise versa.

Once the artist is chosen, the budget is discussed. Mjölk proposes an allowance they feel comfortable investing and the artist’s agreement provides a commitment to the design and manufacture of a product that will meet their mutual expectation visually and functionally.

Because they invest so much time and thought in the collaborative process, Mjölk’s knowledge about each product and the narrative of how it came into being is so extensive, it’s captivating. It’s Mjölk’s unbridled enthusiasm behind each of the products they share with their clients that often turns a simple shopping experience into an inspirational journey.

The bottom line? A successful collaboration, like any good relationship, is based on mutual respect, communication, openness, trust and a mutual desire for everyone to succeed – the brand, the artist and society as a whole.

In our next post we’ll compare and review two art fairs that took place in Toronto this fall, Toronto International Art Fair and Feature Art Fair. See you then.

MjÖLK Storefront
MjÖLK Storefront
LUCA NICHETTO SUCABARUCA COFFEE SET x MJÖLK
LUCA NICHETTO SUCABARUCA COFFEE SET x MJÖLK
Mjölk: Luca Nichetto Sucabaruca Book
LUCA NICHETTO SUCABARUCA COFFEE SET x MJÖLK
Mjölk Favorite Products, Concrete Shaving Kit
Mjölk Favorite Products, Concrete Shaving Kit
AT MJÖLK: Vass cabinet by Claesson Koiviston Rune, Ilse Crawford lamp, Rocket stool by Eero Aarnio
MJÖLK PACKAGING
at MJÖLK: Oji Masanori & Rina Ono products
at MJÖLK: Oji Masanori & Rina Ono products
MJÖLK x studio junction
MJÖLK x studio junction
MJÖLK book series
MJÖLK book series

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05/
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How to plan a successful collaboration

Not surprisingly, an art fusion collaboration can be an intimidating process for brand managers. Every step requires uncompromising attention to detail, making it potentially easy to lose sight of the big picture. But by simply asking yourself a few questions before moving forward, it will be much easier to manage this extremely rewarding process.

Question no.1: Should your collaboration lean more towards being ‘art’ or ‘fusion’? In other words, is it more important for your brand to turn heads, be considered ground-breaking and be elevated by the leadership that signals, or will your brand benefit more from a collaboration that produces a desirable, saleable product? Or both?

At Arts & Labour, we frame this choice as ‘art fusion by deconstruction’ and ‘art fusion by integration’. In art fusion by deconstruction, a brand works with an artist, essentially to create branded art – a sculpture, a video, a mural, an event, a display – to make a strategic statement and to create talk value. Art fusion by integration leans towards the ‘fusion’ side, with the artist using elements of your brand to create a product or group of products. Determining which art fusion method best fits a brand’s objectives is a critical part of the process and will help determine its success. In some cases, a head-turning campaign that combines both methods – deconstruction elevating the brand with its artful integrity and integration creating immediate sales with its desirability – is the most advantageous for the long and short term.

Question no.2: Would I prefer the impact we create to be instant or built reliably and safely over time? Deciding whether a brand would benefit more from developing an art fusion collaboration as ‘a collection’ or as ‘a single piece’ is equally important. If a brand has no time to spare in creating as big a splash as possible, then developing art fusion as a collection is a good way of achieving that. Think about the inspiring art fusion collaboration between the renowned furniture company Herman Miller and the prolific type foundry House Industries. By combining the classic Eames wire-base tables with timeless typographic forms, House Industries created a collection where each and every table was simply impossible to resist. Or consider Lacoste’s collaboration with the Chinese artist Li Xiaofeng, who used both methods of art fusion, first creating ceramic sculptures that he then used to design a limited edition collection of Lacoste polos.

However, if the preference is to have the brand-enhancing benefits of art fusion safely grow over time, then developing it gradually piece-by-piece works. Again, think about Evian, a brand that’s been building their art fusion status continuously over the last eight years. It may be helpful to keep in mind the saying ‘getting further by going slower.’

Question no.3: Should your brand engage with one or a group of artists? Selecting one or a group of artists to collaborate with depends mostly on budget. If what you have available to invest does not allow your brand to collaborate with a well-known artist, then starting the process with a few emerging artists and potentially short-listing them to one or two finalists could be the way.

Established brands, whether high or low-end, tend to collaborate with one artist at a time. For example, Lacoste with Zaha Hadid, the avant-garde Iraqi-British architect; or Crate & Barrel with Paola Navone, the Italian, nomadic, multi-faceted artist and designer; or Target with Phillip Lim, the American fashion designer so loved by US First Lady, Michelle Obama. On the other hand, smaller brands and some not-for-profit organizations have had success working with a few artists at a time, each artist developing a smaller fragment of the whole. For example, the leading UK charity Save the Children created an art fusion collaboration with 14 British designers who designed traditional Christmas sweaters to help raise holiday funds for the organization.

The objective of art fusion is to capture the hearts and minds of consumers, and to stimulate social media into a frenzy of chatter, anticipation and desire. As with all worthwhile marketing pursuits, the amount of strategic thought that’s applied beforehand will only ensure the creative might you wield goes to good use.

Stand by for the next post that looks into art fusion collaborations where the outcome is an installation.

nike x Tom Sachs
nike x Tom Sachs
herman miller x house industries
Dyson Vacuum Cleaners x Issey Miyake
Tom Prince Meltdown Chair Series
Li Xiaofeng for lacoste porcelan polo
lacoste x zaha hadid
crate & barrel x paola navone
ILOVEDUST x TOKYO FIXED GEAR
target x pillip lim
SAVE THE CHILDREN Christmas sweaters x 14 British designers
SAVE THE CHILDREN Christmas sweaters x 14 British designers