The art of PR. How collaborations with the art world serve the PR purposes.

On Friday the 13th I had a chance to see the fashion photography exhibition at the Somerset House. As always, when I go to the art exhibition, I felt like it was a whole ceremony including having a coffee before (or after) the tour, taking pictures and posting them on Instagram with a certain hashtag made up by the PR team of the art display, visiting the gift shop and buying postcards which would remind me of the exhibition. How much art is left in the art itself when the last stop of the display is a gift shop with NARS’s beauty stand, a brand which sponsored the exhibition?

Art became a noble partner for brands to create its’ desirable image of high-profile, culturally engaged and trendy organizations. PR strategies which include art are often based on the financial support of the museums and art galleries, sponsorships of the particular exhibitions which fit the brand’s personality, or artistic collaborations with artists themselves, in order to create a new product or an outstanding campaign. Examples, such as aforementioned NARS sponsorship of Guy Bourdin “Image Maker” exhibition, Louis Vuitton collaboration with Yayoi Kusama, “probably the largest artist collaboration initiated by any luxury goods or fashion house to date”, or Lady Gaga partnership with Jeff Koons show that successful commercial and artistic blends work mostly for the creative industry.

Yayoi Kusama Louis Vuitton Source: businessoffashion.com

Yayoi Kusama Louis Vuitton
Source: businessoffashion.com

Mark Tungate admits that, “the youngest generation of artists realizes that brands can provide an important communications vector—a way of getting their work in front of the public”. In the same time brands benefit from the collaborations in terms of publicity, because there’s a novelty aspect to these kind of projects, as Courtney Scharf pointed out. But the mutual benefits are not so obvious in other business sectors. The case of BP as a major supporter of UK arts and controversies around it prove that consumers can be quite critical when it comes to the sincerity of artistic collaborations.

A protest over BP sponsorship at the Tate Modern in September. Photograph: P Nutt/Demotix/Corbis Source: theguardian.com

A protest over BP sponsorship at the Tate Modern in September 2014. Source: theguardian.com

Apart from the artistic partnerships, also art institutions more and more often use the professional PR services. Although “PR is an old industry, it’s a relatively new phenomenon in the art world”. According to Rozalia Jovanovic, “in the mid-1990s, art PR was almost nonexistent, save for large general practice firms and some burgeoning agencies”. Nowadays, not only museums but also independent art galleries and artists realize the need for the PR help to deal with media relations, provide the professional promotion and maintain the reputation.

The long-awaited exhibition at V&A Museum – Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty – is a perfect example. Well acclaimed art event at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York made it easier for the London-based museum to promote the exhibition. Nevertheless, the amount of media coverage, events taking place around the exhibition, the celebration of its official opening with guests including the biggest names in fashion world, and partnerships with Swarovski, MAC and American Express serve as a model case of a PR strategy in the art world.

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