When art works

A skilful combination of art and architecture can connect with consumers to deliver a priceless advertising message, as Prask Sutton, head of innovation at CURB Media, explains

4 min read

I am a big fan of art for art’s sake, but I’m equally enamoured with the difference that same art can make when incorporated into marketing and advertising.

Much of my time is spent travelling around the globe to meet artists and take in their exhibitions, usually because something in what they have created has triggered an idea and I feel that, subjectivity aside, the work will speak to others in a similar way. However, engineering the form this engagement takes – where, when and who experiences the art and how – is no less an exercise in creativity and is where the tenet of “the medium being the message” comes into its own.

A good visual artist may be able to draw, but exceptional artists can draw attention. Piquing people’s interest in moments when they are tasked with going about their daily routine works best when the art is thoroughly integrated into its surroundings. This successful intersection between art and architecture requires a thorough understanding of the dynamics of what are often ever-changing environments.

When done well, people can be surprised, pleased and informed in such ways as to encourage them to record, share, remember and treasure those moments, all of which makes for good advertising. Importantly, despite being disruptive in the sense of attention-grabbing, such engagement stands as a positive contribution to the spaces we inhabit, so that even when used to promote a brand, product, person or service, passersby tend not to feel as though they are being advertised at. In an ad-savvy society like our own, this kind of added-value “addvertising”, whereby the arts are able to benefit businesses and vice versa, while simultaneously enriching society, is more relevant than ever.

A good visual artist may be able to draw, but exceptional artists can draw attention

When CURB was asked to launch Halo: Reach for Xbox, we were looking for something iconic. Something huge. Familiar with the usual formats available in out-of-home advertising, we knew that nothing existed that would be large enough to deliver the impact required. Coming at it from a different angle, we started thinking about other surfaces that might fit the bill. The exterior walls at the Westfield London shopping centre, in the UK, immediately sprang to mind. They are colossal, but their white marble is not the sort of thing that one is readily given permission to embellish. Pushing things a little further, we had decided that we wanted to hand paint photorealistic murals on to the three biggest walls. Priceless marble and graffiti would ordinarily make strange bedfellows, but in this case the combination of art and architecture could not have been better suited.

In a matter of days, artists Patrick McGregor and Tait Roelofs created three 13-metre-high murals, by hand, which captured the attention and brought wonder to all those walking down Westfield’s Eat Street. Every other person passing by took out their phone to snap and share the towering images, amazed that each of these stunning pieces was being painted live on such a scale.

Sometimes, however, sheer size is not enough to make a piece stand out. Anamorphic perspective art makes use of a series of images on different surfaces, which from most positions appears to be a visual jumble, but from the right vantage point morphs into a cohesive whole. As multiple surfaces are used, the canvas can incorporate anything in the field of view.

The inclusion of the immediate environment in these cases is particularly interesting, as with anamorphic perspective art, canvases’ surfaces do not necessarily need to be physically linked. As long as they are spatially joined from the key viewing angle, elements of such work can be geographically separated by quite significant distances in relation to the artwork’s size, enabling otherwise unconnected architecture to be drawn together.

By creating something that only makes real sense when viewed from such a specific angle, an incredibly intimate experience can be crafted, one that resonates far more than something seen more readily.

One particular artist is John Pugh, a trompe l’oeil muralist who specialises in life-size murals. Discussing his work, he says: “By creating architectural illusion that integrates with the existing environment both optically and aesthetically, the art transcends the ‘separateness’ that public art sometimes produces.”

By creating stand-out pieces that make the viewer reassess what their eyes are telling them, the ability of different artists to grab the attention of consumers and leave them with a positive memorable experience of a brand is priceless. There may be no better example of the successful marriage of art, architecture and advertising.

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