Editor's Letter, September 2008

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The tension between art and commerce is like a core physical property governing the ad industry. It seems that the industry ruled long ago on the question of whether advertising is art—it isn't, they say. But, as always, it depends on what your definition of isn't is. There is inarguably art in advertising. Those who practice higher forms of brand creativity make things that evoke an emotional reaction, generate thoughts and behaviors. That brand creativity does not exist to serve its creator's vision and that it's typically the product of a collaborative (sometimes soul crushing) process disqualify it, one supposes, from arthood.

At the same time, the already brotherly art and brand worlds are coming into closer proximity with greater frequency. While a number of brands have a history of intertwining themselves with art, more and more marketers are newly tapping the work and the culture of contemporary artists, some with greater success than others, some borrowing from artists' known works, some commissioning new ones. In any given week a glance at Creativity Online reveals a new artist-driven brand communications initiative—at press time, we were showcasing the video portraits created for Nike stores by artist and theater director Robert Wilson and the Ogilvy-created ads for the Environmental Defense Fund that reinterpreted artist Joshua Harris' subway exhaust/plastic bag-hewn animals. Outside of the communications framework, the art/commerce dynamic is even more interesting and the border between the two areas more porous. To wit—the Gap's recent partnership with Paris boutique Colette, itself an art-driven retail laboratory. The tension between art and commerce, high and low, love and money is nowhere more evident than in the art of Takashi Murakami, profiled in this issue (see p. 37).

Meanwhile, ad creatives tend to be artists anyway, outside of brand billable hours. Creativity will showcase the work of some of those ad creatives turned artists (or vice versa) in this issue (see p.44) and at our first Hearts & Minds event, September 25 in New York at the Art Directors Club.

Hearts & Minds was created as a hearty nod to the art and artists in and around the brand world. While the event will provide a forum for the discussion of the meeting of brands and art, it'll mostly just be a showcase for some great artists who inspire us in and outside of the context of our regular jobs. During the event you'll see the work and hear the perspective of people like illustrator Marian Bantjes and Flash artist Erik Natzke. The event will also showcase the best work from our Penguin cover design contest.

Now, Penguin had us at publishing great literature. But the company has made bigger fans of us here by bringing the visual and storytelling arts together, inviting artists like Shepard Fairey, Chris Ware and Frank Miller to update the covers of its classics. So we were quite pleased this year when Penguin came on board and gave our annual artists' competition a new focus—to design the cover of an upcoming title, Sam Taylor's The Island at the End of the World. You'll see the 25 best entries in this issue (see p.48) and on the walls of the ADC the day of our event.

In all, we wanted to provide a celebration of art as much as a contemplation of the classic tension that colors your professional lives. As Fairey, one of the artists who has worked at this heavily trafficked intersection (look for a video interview with him on Creativity Online in conjunction with this issue) sums up: "Art and commerce need each other."

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