Taking notes at Brandalism in Singapore...

We headed along to The Drum’s Brandalism event, held in partnership with HP, when in Singapore this week, where a panel session at the ArtScience Museum had those agency and client-side rubbing shoulders with artists, seeking a shared view on the role of art (specifically street art) in advertising. Inevitably, this was not easy to find, and much of the challenge centred around if the value exchange between creativity and commerce could ever really be set right.

Art and advertising have in fact been dancing around each other for over a century (Toulouse-Lautrec, Rockwell, Warhol etc), but some new perspectives never hurt. Here’s a few quick notes from the session –

It was suggested that a brand’s values must match with those of the artist – easy to say, seriously tricky to deliver against, we’d suggest.

Alternatively, and likely a more realistic exchange, that the secret lies in the brand creating an opportunity that the artist would not otherwise have had; as a modern-day patronage of the arts, you could say, with Coke, or UBS, or Beck’s, taking the role once occupied by Renaissance-era establishment.

Most on the panel cautioned against brands thinking that collaborating with artists could function as a kind of shortcut to cultural relevancy. And Didier ‘Jaba’ Mathieu, the street artist on the panel, said that it often wouldn’t help an artist’s credibility within the scene if they’d notched up a track record of working with brands

Shaky ground all round, then. Though some examples (not specifically current, admittedly) were put forwards of art/brand collaborations that had appealed:

Art House: an Airbnb initiative at Art Basel Hong Kong a couple of years ago, that saw 11 artists given a disused store to set up studio in. The scary, but ultimately rewarding part, explained panellist Matthias Schuecking (consultant and former Airbnb marketer) was just allowing them to do whatever they wanted.

Art House
Art House

Favela Painting/Let’s Color: AkzoNobel-backed initiative with Dutch artists Haas&Hahn which turned 34 houses of a hillside favela into a huge community art project. For the month of painting, community members ‘received an education as well as a paycheck’.

Favela Painting
Favela Painting

eL Seed: the French/Tunisian artist is known as a ‘calligraffiti’ pioneer, working on everything from Arabic script art in New York proclaiming ‘The only thing people have in common is the fact that they are different’, to painting across 50 buildings in Cairo. He collaborated with Louis Vuitton, creating designs over the classic monogram scarf and LV trunk cases (ok, so not advertising really).

Coca-Cola: their quest for personalisation went into overdrive when they set a target of producing two million unique bottles of Diet Coke. Physical pieces of art were first created that, though abstract, featured brand relevancy in the form of bubbles and visual interpretations of fizz. HP then digitised the designs, creating an algorithm that could generate infinite new variations of each design to adorn bottles.

From original art to two million bottle variations
From original art to two million bottle variations

The common ground here? Perhaps a higher than normal level of investment in the cause by the brand and/or surrender of control. Commitment and humility, then – two factors for brands to bear in mind when engaging with art; though there’s a tension in this space that, we imagine, won’t be solved anytime soon.