Models You Should Know, And Not Because Of Their Famous Flames

products. Now that he is dead, his actual nude distortions have been used in a British national advertising campaign to sell Levi jeans, appearing on posters in over 4,000 city-sites during 1993, the very year that the originals were on display at the Barbican, one of Britain’s most prestigious venues for fine art.

But it would be a mistake to suggest that fine-artists do not/would not sell their personal images to be used in advertisements.

Examples are legion, from Ansel Adams’ wilderness image on a coffee can, Joel Meyerowitz’s Cape Cod image selling Adobe Photoshop, Duane Michals’ sequence images selling everything from fashion to insurance, and the list is endless. Hundreds of fine-artists are daily pitching their art as advertising. And I am not talking about their willingness to sell their talents as moonlighting professionals; I’m talking about their personal art, once made, being coopted as advertising images.

A more insidious trend is for corporations to jump the gun and prepay the artists to produce art, hence aligning commercial interests with the rebel-artist syndrome. A recent example is the “Barbie” series of large-format Polaroid prints produced by David Levinthal. These have been exhibited, promoted, and sold (for huge figures, at least by photographic standards) by major art galleries throughout the nation. The exhibition can also be seen in book form, Barbie Millicent Roberts (Pantheon). Levinthal has a track record of photographing table-top figurines – soldiers, cowboys and Indians, glamor models, blacks – in order to make, as he and the critics seem to think, biting satires and critical attacks on social/cultural stereotyping. His Barbie dolls presumably fit the same pattern. Yet, lo and behold, the major funding, and promotion, for this series was provided by Mattel, the makers of the Barbie doll.

So what is wrong with this picture? Nothing.

It merely illustrates that art and advertising are not as dissimilar as usually assumed. I have heard gallery directors (who are selling the Barbie series) actually say that Levinthal has perpetuated a crafty scam on Mattel: the lone artist cocks a snoot at big business by making art which criticizes a product while getting the manufacturer to pay for it. The implication is a sniggering “up yours” to Mattel while they themselves, the galleries, are also making money from Barbie. Self- deception and hypocrisy are deeply embedded in the game. And you do not think that Mattel is fully aware of these reactions from the art community? Of course it is. It fully embraces all the ideological, critical mumbo-jumbo surrounding the series; Mattel is now a player in the rebel-artist stakes, and reaping the benefits of all the free publicity.

Levinthal, by all accounts a serious worker and a nice guy to boot, has not been singled out for special criticism. He is merely a prominent example of the syndrome. Other artists are more than willing to aid and abet the advertising process. Indeed a special agency was created just for this purpose.

The Swanstock picture agency took already completed projects by fine artists and sold the results for commercial purposes. So successful was the idea that the agency was bought out by Image Bank, one of the biggest commercial picture agencies in the world. Image Bank is owned by Kodak. Swanstock had no difficulty in recruiting fine artists to submit their individual creativity for advertising.

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