Supermarket Art

“Is the experience of an art gallery fundamentally different than the experience  of a supermarket ?”

Nick Bell asks this question in “The Steam Roller of Branding” regarding the issue of “branding culture”, especially art galleries as the Tate, Barbican and the Whitechapel Gallery. It is very interesting to examine the approach of early 60’s Pop artists to the very same question. The Brillo soap pad boxes, Campbell’s soup packaging and the Heinz tomato ketchup box were all made between 1962-1964 by Andy Warhol. All of these art works were created with industial production methods such as screen print, and address the question of the separation of art from mass culture. These works contain a very strong message about the consumer society and its hunger for more. In my opinion Andy Warhol was saying  that the art galleries of that period were to “clean” and “rich” and by creating a “supermarket” experience in the gallery he draws a new line between art and consuming. This is the very same line that  disturbs Nick Bell.

“they believe their customers need to be lured to look at art with a mode of address they understand from spending time in the supermarket”

I think that Artist like Andy Warhol changed the art scene and turned it to what it is today, there is no doubt it is an aesthetic and spiritual sensation to see art work in a gallery, but it is also a consuming experience. While visiting a gallery, how many times did you say to yourself  “I would hang this piece on my beautiful exposed brick wall – if I could afford it”. To me, Nick Bell’s message is the opposite of Andy Warhol’s. While Andy Warhol’s attitude is  art is fun, art can deliver a message, lets mix things up,  Nick Bell’s attitude is Art is serious, we cant treat it like it is business, its holy, please be gentle with the branding. I prefer the first approach, artists create art, and then they sell it, I see no reason treating an art gallery (graphically) differently than any other institution, (Yes, including a supermarket) as long as the graphic identity delivers the content of the institution.


Posted on February 23, 2011, in Rhetoric. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I really enjoy your post. It is actually true Galleries and supermarkets have many things in common.
    Bur there is one thing they don`t share:
    Galleries work in a certain technique and IKEA (for ex.) works in a certain technique
    Not only the physical/architectone construction of a gallery is interesting to illuminate but furthermore, a certain manner how to behave in a gallery that also contributes to the characteristics of a museum. As minimalistic and reserved is the appearance of the inside of a museum similarly reserved and fairly invisible behaves the visitor. Or should the visitors behave apart from inaugurations or guided tours. It seems as if one doesn´t want to disturb the artistic vibration the artwork is
    reflecting, or it seems as if one doesn´t want to interrupt the personal interference oneself or others have with the projected work. Some aspects of behaviour are comparable to those in a church or other sacred buildings. – these rules are neither spoken nor written. Whereas in Ikea we would behave completely different but that doesn`t make graphically a difference I guess…

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