Recently, I got into an argument with a friend about whether or not we can consider advertising art. The question stemmed from the nature of movie trailers and if we can judge their artistic quality.
I argued that such “creative projects” could be considered art if it was well-planned and well-executed, withstanding certain exceptions.
He argued that when created within the cadre of consumerism, it could not be classified as art.
Perhaps the two aren’t quite so mutually exclusive.
For instance, I can still distinctly remember seeing the “Back in Black” Gap commercial for black, skinny jeans. I stared in awe as Audrey Hepburn, lifted from a smoky Parisian café, danced across my screen to AC/DC’s classic song. I was completely transfixed. The goal was to sell black, skinny jeans, and I’ll admit that even to this day, they are a key part of my wardrobe, but does that mean that the commercial wasn’t art?
My friend contested that there was nothing “artistic” about it.
I think we need to divorce ourselves from the idea of “art for art sake.” Art can be multifunctional. It can evoke an emotional response and sell us a pair of jeans or a new car.
But is that really the question? We have this idea that art is on some higher plane, thus making it unavailable to the masses. How then can this “high brow” subject be paired with something as “low brow” as advertising to the greater public? (Hey! Isn’t that the purpose of this blog?!)
I won’t go down the road of explaining consumerism and the detrimental effects of capitalism. That, I believe, is another argument entirely.
Merriam Webster defines art as “something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings.” Under this definition, we can classify many things as art.
The “pop” in “pop art” comes from popular; its subjects are commonplace, widely available to mass culture. We can look at the poster child for the movement (right or wrong), Andy Warhol and his Campbell Soup cans. Though he was painting his lunch, his art was also used to sell products. Hell, Warhol himself was a product.
Many artists play with our interactions with consumerism, subverting it, but never really existing outside of it. And that’s kind of the point.
Sure, the point of film trailers is to make you want to spend the money to see the film advertised, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t also an artistic representation of the coming attraction–or even art in and of themselves.
Advertising and art, to put it simply, are not mutually exclusive. However, not all advertising is art, and not all art is advertising. But, at the end of the day, we’re always going to disagree on what qualifies as art. What we can agree on is that rather than being a chart with strict lines, advertising and art are better classified as Venn diagrams.