Koons, Dom Pérignon, Playboy and Marfa
Jeff Koons has never made a secret of his buyability. His sculptures famously retail for millions, produced in factory conditions by a team of willing assistants (much like Hirst), and he's no stranger to a brand collaboration or two - he's worked with BMW, Kiehl's and Lisa Perry in the past. In the past week, his latest collaborative venture has been announced - a partnership with Champagne house Dom Pérignon, through which they will sell a limited edition of Dom Pérignon Rosé Vintage 2003 partneredwith a model replica of Koons' 'Balloon Venus' sculpture - for circa $20,000 a pop.
Leaving aside aesthetic considerations, it's done them no end of PR good (although it's not like they wouldn't have sold the champagne anyway...) - what's interesting is the association between artist and brand (well chosen - both are expensive, shiny, and redolent of a sort of 1980s chic which is increasingly en vogue again in the fashion and art worlds), and the now near-ubiquitous trend of brands coopting artists to help sell their products.
Consider Marfa - once the biggest little art town in Texas, first Prada came in with their pop-up-cum-concept-store-cum-art-project (as officially endorsed by Mrs Carter) - now Playboy have gotten in on the act, commissioning Richard Phillips to make a work for them out in the desert - a work which blurs even further the line between art and advertising which the artist had explored in his previous works.
Both of these collaborations raise serious - and interesting - questions about the degree to which work can be considered as advertising when commissioned by a brand or corporation for commercial gain (whilst brands may often wax lyrical about their 'commitment to the arts' and a 'reflection of their brand values', this is never about anything less than PR, which is never about anything less than impacting the bottom line at some level). Hence the question about brand as patron. When we look at a Vermeer, commissioned by a 17th Century Dutch plutocrat, we don't question the validity of the work based on the doubtless somewhat venal and self-aggrandising motivations of aforementioned plutocrat; should, therefore, the idea of a brand's involvement in the creation of work have anything more than a passing and transient effect on our appreciation or opinion of it?
A bigger question that we're going to be able to answer here - we'll let you know when that Phd gets funded - but one things for certain; as the publicly funded market for art of any sort shrinks, brands will (and are already) stepping in to fill the gap, providing financial support to a whole generation of younger artists far removed from the likes of Koons - it remains to be seen what the long-term creative legacy of this patronage is.