What a week it was in NYC. With Frieze, Social Media Week, and the Tribeca Film Festival happening simultaneously, the creative conversations flowed in every direction, everywhere you looked. I may see through a biased lens, but the red threads that wove it all together were music and brands.
Once decimated by the digital revolution, the music business reinvented itself, adapted to the seismic market shift and, in many ways, bounced back better than ever. Brand collaborations, long a sign of selling out, were key to this. They’re now a giant revenue generator — even a badge of honor — what we lovingly call “selling in.”
But it’s not that way in the art world…yet.
Frieze, the world-class contemporary art fair that takes place in various cities worldwide, lays bare to this reality. Launched out of the magazine of the same name, Frieze may be New York’s “coolest” art annual, an amazing place to see everything hot in the art world in one week. But brand partnerships, especially with and for artists, are not particularly present.
I’m very bullish on the fine art market in this day in age. Not only does it challenge us aesthetically, but it’s also incredibly lucrative and well built, in my opinion, for social media. Sadly, brands and fine artists are not working together as well as they could be.
Sure, artist licensing is popular posthumously for big names like Keith Haring, Basquiat, and Warhol. And yes, there are examples of partnerships with a fashion bent, such as Bradley Theodore+Puma or Virgil+Nike (the latter swagger jacked the former, IMO!). But it’s nowhere near pervasive and it’s not being capitalized on by rising artists and galleries the way that emerging musicians and labels have shown is possible.
I foresee more successful collaborations in the future, mainly because of how edgy and “different” much of the fine art space is. It’s a brand dream in that regard. I marvel at the way real estate developers are able to employ street art in neighborhood revitalization projects, raising both aesthetic and property values at once. It’s smart business. Have you been to Wynwood? The transformation in just a few short years has been stunning. It’s worth a trip if you’re in Miami for Basel this year.
Don’t get me wrong: I want artists to put their art first and their business second. It’s a brand’s responsibility to make these relationships more than transactional. The value exchange has to uplift, which is where great marketers come into play. We understand how to finesse these collabs without diminishing the value of the work. Instead, as in music, the artist’s profile, image, and creative outcomes are enhanced as well.
Nue is on the lookout for brands that want to be part of this inevitable shift. Let’s do this the right way!