The relationship between art and commerce interests me a great deal. This relationship is demonstrated through many mediums of art-fashion, film, graphic design-and is sometimes met with mixed reviews. Although commercial art, or pop art, is not a new establishment by any means, the use of advertising in art is becoming so common it’s sometimes hard to notice. A recent and somewhat exhausting example of the relationship between commerce and art is the Sex and the City film. It’s no secret that I am a huge follower of Sex and the City (SATC), but the film was almost too much for me. While it’s normal to make references to real-life celebrities or product companies in the show, the film took it to a who other level almost at the expense of the film’s already questionable integrity. The film made references to fashion brands, real-life actors, phone companies, nearly every facet of life was represented in some way by a company through the film. Another example of gross-artistic-advertisement (if you will) is the music video made for Lady Gaga called Telephone:
Products shown in the video were Miracle Whip, Virgin Mobile, HP, Chevy, Coke, the list goes on (and on, and on). My distaste for Lady Gaga goes far beyond this video, but this clash of art and commerce is really surprising for me. On one hand, Lady Gaga is praised by (most, not all) major critics for her outstanding visual performance, artistic merit, etc. It’s hard for me to quite understand that considering money is often a motivator for her, as demonstrated by this music video. On the other hand, it could be said that the is burring the lines between high and low culture, for example wearing an avant-garde telephone head piece that will never be seen worn in the supermarket while stirring a jar of miracle whip. Of course, Lady Gaga is not the only one blurring such lines, and in my opinions there are artsits around the world doing a far better job than she is and with a lot more independence, might I add. In Japan, there is an artistic revolution created by artist Takashi Murakami called “superflat,” characterized by graphic images often taken from Otaku lifestyle, manga, and vibrant, flat planes of color. He has been compared to Andy Warhol in the sense that he combines “low-art,” concepts like facets of underground Tokyo consumer culture and blends it with “high-art,” culture.
This work, titled My Lonesome Cowboy (1998) was sold for a reported 15 million dollars. It’s denotative description is simple: a life-size, young male, ejaculating in swirls that spiral out of control. Murakami is able to represent an entire generation (in this case, young Japan) through his art. Again, like Warhol, he packages and repackages his art, making it available as logos, on prints as bags, etc. As much as I am fascinated and excited by art such as Takashi Murakami, I am afraid as well. There is a clear difference in the work of Murakami, and Lady Gaga/SATC creators, and I think that is motivation. Of course it would be silly to say that Murakami’s work is not in some way driven by fiscal interests, but I fear that when an artist is unable to control art vs. commerce, high vs. low art, artistic integrity is lost from the work and from the artist themselves.