Pop is Short for Popular
December 03, 2009
Whilst I was in London last week I popped into the the Tate Modern and experienced the awesome Pop Life exhibition.
It's dead good - and not just because some of the rooms are 18+ only [always a good sign].
[Dear FCC - this is an unsolicited endorsement. I just thought it was good. I bought a ticket and everything.]
One of my favorite pieces was created just for the show - a music video, shot by McG, conceived and styled by Murakami, starring Kirsten Dunst, for the song Turning Japanese [I think I'm turning Japanese] by The Vapors.
[It's not online yet but you can see some shots from it here - kawaii!]
There's some really interesting exegesis about Warhol and his approach to business as art.
Recently I got asked some questions about Warhol and so I did a bit of research so I wouldn't look too stupid.
He was a branding genius, he turned himself into a brand very consciously, decades before social media somehow got Julia Allison a role in a Sony TV commercial.
He wasn't doing this just to appease his childhood insecurities [although that was probably part of it].
It was because he approached art as a business:
Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art. - A Warhol
In his book - The Philosophy of Andy Warhol - he makes the branding point even more explicitly.
He talks about being jealous of
'Levi and Strauss. I wish I could invent something like blue jeans. Something to be remembered for. Something mass.'
This i think is awesome - art not for the elite but for everyone - but also very commercially minded.
It's echoed in a quote from Posh Spice - who said she wanted to be 'as famous as persil' - as Bullmore pointed out ages ago. Packaged goods brands are more famous than any celebrity will ever be.
Let's return to the 18+ room.
In 1991, Jeff Koons wrote a letter to Italian porn star turned politician [only in Italy - although if Jenna Jameson ran...] Cicciolina and invited her to make some art with him.
During the making of this art - which consists of idealised and very graphic images and sculptures of them having sex as a kind of postlapsarian Adam and Eve - they fell in love and got married and created a very compelling myth around the artworks.
Now - whilst Koons was famous in the 80s, after this he became really very famous indeed.
[There are few things guaranteed to create headlines around the world, but this has to come very close.]
And then he also happened to become the most expensive living artist in the world at auction.
All the POPular artists featured - especially Damien Hirst - understood that the value any work of art is entirely socially created - it only has value because we agree that it does.
Which means that the entire art industry is predicated on a very simple value equation:
People will pay more for something they have heard of.
Correspondingly, the more people have heard of the artist, and his work, the more it is worth.
So the business of art is fame, to become popular, to make itself famous, to create brands.
As you may have guessed, I think this mechanism underlies a lot of culture, and advertising and that.