A MaxMara Case Study: What's better, an art prize or a direct commission?

  Kerstin Brätsch and United Brothers wear Lavaprisms for MaxMara. Courtesy MaxMara.

Kerstin Brätsch and United Brothers wear Lavaprisms for MaxMara. Courtesy MaxMara.

Above the Fold: MaxMara announced both the winner of the Art Prize for Women and a Salon de Mobile commission last month.
Collectively, that's a lot of corporate energy and trust being funnelled into art. The MaxMara Art Prize for Women went to Helen Cammock, whose multimedia work composes narratives of marginalized voices and the black experience. This is a rather unique prize for a couple reasons: first, it's demographically limited (women based in the United Kingdom who have not had a retrospective); second, its jury judges proposals, not completed work; and, third, the prize is a residency at which the proposal becomes a work. These are all rare attributes that define the goals of the prize, and also reflect the values of the brand in a coherent way. WWD announces the prize. Cammock will be headed to Italy for six months, where she will research female emotions in art history. Frieze reports on the proposal. Like many of the best art prizes, this one is awarded in concert with an Institution (the Whitechapel Gallery), and draws on the expertise of an art world jury intimately tied to the target demographic (gallerist Vanessa Carlos, artist Laure Prouvost, and several others). Meanwhile, at the Salone del Mobile, also in Italy, MaxMara also tapped artists Kerstin Brätsch and Ei Arakawa (under the moniker of his collective, United Brothers) to create a limited edition pair of sunglasses called Lavaprisms, based on a combined concept of Brätsch's work with glass as a medium and the Brothers' ongoing engagement with the nuclear meltdown in Fukushima. Wallpaper shares the visuals. MaxMara typically (though not exclusively) collaborates with women artists (last year's sunglasses were with Shantell Martin), in another reflection of its brand values. So which project succeeds? If Google and Instagram results are anything to go by, the prize earned far more mentions and buzz in the media, with more than seven times the number of results. Anecdotally, we seem to be witnessing brand collaborations working best when artists are encouraged to remain on their own turf, and brands support their works on negotiated terms, rather than scenarios in which artists are commissioned to create products or environments in a more traditionally marketing-oriented sense.

  Work from the Fosun collection in "A World in a Grain of Sand" at the Atlantis resort in Sanya. Courtesy Fosun Foundation.

Work from the Fosun collection in "A World in a Grain of Sand" at the Atlantis resort in Sanya. Courtesy Fosun Foundation.

Chinese conglomerate Fosun opens its Atlantis Sanya resort development with an exhibition of its art collection. A first for the group, the collection focuses on the younger generation of Chinese artists and international artists active in China, and encompasses new media like VR and AR, mostly in works commissioned or acquired specially for the exhibition. (It was curated by LEAP editor-in-chief Robin Peckham.) The Art Newspaper

Instagram-famous artist Ashley Longshore collaborates with Bergdorf Goodman. The work is fun and lighthearted, and reminds us that we urgently need to come up with a word for this kind of art: resolutely ignored by the contemporary art world, embraced by fashion and celebrity, intensely popular on social media.“I’m not just an artist, I’m an entrepreneur ... I want to represent myself. I want to keep 100 percent of my profit margin.” And a poor Bergdorf VP is accidentally quoted admitting he has no idea who the audience is: “Ashley has a mature audience buying her pricier works. But she has more millennials, I would assume, than we do.” New York Times New York Times

Art Chengdu is sponsored by Hublot and Hongqi. Consensus says that there are too many art fairs in the world, but now the most interesting ones are opening in second-tier cities like Seattle, Dallas, Chicago, Torino, and Brussels. Can Chengdu, home to pandas and spicy hotpot, add itself to that list? The inaugural edition of the boutique fair included a booth showcasing Hublot's artistic collaborations and a metallic pink Hongqi parked outside (that's the auto manufacturer once known for providing limos to China's political elite). Artron

Frieze New York is sponsored by BMW. (Actually, Frieze's global lead sponsor is Deutsche Bank, but BMW is louder on the branding front, so that's what we're talking about.) BMW's VIP shuttle service used to involve sound art installed in the cars' stereos. Perhaps because everyone prefers to ride the ferry, they're now focusing on a lounge presentation, including the exhibition "200 Women," by Geoff Blackwell and Ruth Hobday, who are explicitly called "creators" rather than "artists" in the press material. Odd choice for an art fair? BMW Press Room
 

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