MAD MEN AT FRIEZE ART FAIR

MAD MEN AT FRIEZE ART FAIR

Is Damien Hirst Don Draper in disguise?

by KOD Staff

What do Don Draper and Damien Hirst have in common? The similarities between TV series Mad Men’s lead character and the world’s highest earning artist reveal how art is becoming more about branding, especially in the context of Frieze Week London, one of the world’s most recognized art fairs. Of course artists will always be at the mercy of money, but is art just an exercise in personal branding?

Both Hirst and Draper manipulate branding to their advantage. As Creative Director of advertising firm Sterling Cooper, Draper – played by Jon Hamm – is responsible for creating corporate identities, but he is also a brand in his own right. On screen he is a marketing genius, preying on America’s insecurities to create glittering advertising campaigns. At the end of each episode, he inspires a multitude of idolizing blogs and online discussions.

Matthew Weiner, writer of Mad Men, has created an icon – no easy feat in today’s society, endemic with cynicism. But Draper’s branding endears us to old-school masculinity: he’s always in a suit, drinking in his office and sleeping with his secretaries.

Damien Hirst

Hirst told The Independent, “Becoming a brand name is a really important part of life.” And with an over-riding theme of pop mortality, his work is consistent and therefore immediately recognizable. His brand is world famous, justifying his sky high prices. As a student he was proactive, putting on events and mercilessly networking.

Thanks to his corporate mentality, in the past Hirst has been compared to the late Thomas Kinkade. Kinkade was a mass market artist, specializing in a tacky Christmas card aesthetic, set against a backdrop of devout Christianity. He produced prints of his works in bulk, selling them on the QVC shopping network. He was widely criticized for the commercialization of his art yet his sales reached nearly $100 million annually.

It was Kinkade’s everyman appeal that made him successful and he estimated that one in twenty American homeowners had a copy of one of his paintings. In an interview with Time Out in 2009, Hirst expressed Kinkade-esque aspirations - 'I always feel a bit trapped when a painting goes for millions and only one person can have it. If you can have that as well as a poster on every student's wall, then you're in a very enviable position.'  

At fairs, like Frieze, the marketplace manifests itself under one noisy roof so work needs to scream out brand identity to be heard above the rabble.

Today, this hybrid of artist-meets-businessman is necessary thanks to a globalized art market and the internet. Collecting art is now an international hobby and so, for artists, there’s more competition and a greater need to stand out. At fairs, like Frieze, the marketplace manifests itself under one noisy roof so work needs to scream out brand identity to be heard above the rabble.

Advertising is based on one thing: happiness,” Draper tells the boardroom in season one. “Happiness is freedom from fear. It's a billboard on the side of a road that screams reassurance.” Mad Men shows us the way advertising toys with human emotion. In the hands of Draper, products promise a better life. For Lucky Strike, the cigarette company, he created the slogan, ‘It’s Toasted’. Conjuring warm and wholesome images, the words said – don’t worry about science, it’s still okay to smoke.

Hirst uses similar techniques to appeal to his audience. His sculptures feature animal carcasses, pickled and perfectly preserved in formaldehyde solution – the subject matter is morbid but the appearance is serene.

Mad Men

Like the floating farm animals, his butterfly paintings are reassuring because they’re beautiful. These works separate death from its dark and rotting image, gently comforting their audience: maybe dying isn’t that bad. However, this kind of reassurance isn’t cheap. Hirst’s sale at Sotheby’s in 2008 raised £111 million. 

But in Mad Men’s season six, Draper reveals that some things are too precious to be prodded and polished by advertising. In a meeting with Hershey, the chocolate company, he describes growing up in a brothel, remembering how Hershey bars were the only thing that made him feel like a normal kid. “If I had my way, you would never advertise,” he tells them. “You shouldn’t have someone like me telling that boy what a Hershey bar is. He already knows.”

Draper cherishes the way Hershey’s brand identity has grown organically, believing that a manufactured message would undermine its audience. Yet Hirst manages his brand ruthlessly. This week the artist descends on Qatar with a triple pronged attack – he collaborates with Prada in the Qatari desert; he opens his largest ever exhibition in Doha and he recently unveiled fourteen fetus sculptures.

Both Draper and Hirst sell ideas in the form of products, so the artist and the ad man are not so different. But like Draper, Hirst should know his limit – when branding is necessary and art is sacred. 

Leave a comment

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.

90'S GRUNGE WEIGHS IN ON FASHION

Smudged lipstick, lolita-esque nighties, & ripped stockings, ready to confuse & disturb

Chloe Mackey

Read more »
Share »

A SEXLESS SOCIETY IS HERE

Fashion rides the gender blending trend  

Maria Raposo

Read more »
Share »

THE HEDI SLIMANE EFFECT ON YVES SAINT LAURENT

How the designer remade the house of Yves Saint Laurent

Greg French

Read more »
Share »

NAN GOLDIN: THE BALLAD OF SEXUAL DEPENDENCY

The artist captures the essence of humanity and life on the edge

Ellie Howard

Read more »
Share »

SYNCHRODOGS: “I must be dreaming”

We speak to the photography duo about synchronicity & the power of dreams

Ellie Howard

Read more »
Share »

MEET THE ARTISTS CHINA CAN'T KEEP CONTAINED

Artists Sun Yuan & Peng Yu use dead babies & live animals in their creations to blur the lines of art & reality

Peter Yeung

Read more »
Share »

JOSEPH BEUYS: I LIKE AMERICA AND AMERICA LIKES ME

What we can learn from artist about race relations and how to heal a nation    

Peter Yeung

Read more »
Share »

THE COLLAGE RENAISSANCE

Contemporary collage is the new Pop Art collectors are buying into

Harriet Baker

Read more »
Share »

DAVID BOWIE PUSHED THE LIMITS OF MUSIC, ART & FASHION

Bowie was an artist and an explorer that embodied true individuality that our generation craves

Fiona Ma

Read more »
Share »

FASHION PHOTOGRAPHY GETS HYPER-REAL

From Erwin Blumenfeld to Nick Knight, fashion constructs fantastical images

Greg French

Read more »
Share »

90'S GRUNGE WEIGHS IN ON FASHION

Smudged lipstick, lolita-esque nighties, & ripped stockings, ready to confuse & disturb

Chloe Mackey

Read more »
Share »

A SEXLESS SOCIETY IS HERE

Fashion rides the gender blending trend  

Maria Raposo

Read more »
Share »

THE HEDI SLIMANE EFFECT ON YVES SAINT LAURENT

How the designer remade the house of Yves Saint Laurent

Greg French

Read more »
Share »

NAN GOLDIN: THE BALLAD OF SEXUAL DEPENDENCY

The artist captures the essence of humanity and life on the edge

Ellie Howard

Read more »
Share »

SYNCHRODOGS: “I must be dreaming”

We speak to the photography duo about synchronicity & the power of dreams

Ellie Howard

Read more »
Share »

MEET THE ARTISTS CHINA CAN'T KEEP CONTAINED

Artists Sun Yuan & Peng Yu use dead babies & live animals in their creations to blur the lines of art & reality

Peter Yeung

Read more »
Share »

JOSEPH BEUYS: I LIKE AMERICA AND AMERICA LIKES ME

What we can learn from artist about race relations and how to heal a nation    

Peter Yeung

Read more »
Share »

THE COLLAGE RENAISSANCE

Contemporary collage is the new Pop Art collectors are buying into

Harriet Baker

Read more »
Share »

DAVID BOWIE PUSHED THE LIMITS OF MUSIC, ART & FASHION

Bowie was an artist and an explorer that embodied true individuality that our generation craves

Fiona Ma

Read more »
Share »

FASHION PHOTOGRAPHY GETS HYPER-REAL

From Erwin Blumenfeld to Nick Knight, fashion constructs fantastical images

Greg French

Read more »
Share »

THE EVOCATIVE IMAGES OF STREET PHOTOGRAPHY

Eminent street photographers find beauty in the ordinary

Leah Sinclair

Read more »
Share »

THE ZINE SCENE IS BACK

Self-Publishing is Having a Moment and It’s Redefining Youth and Self Expression

Leah Sinclair

Read more »
Share »

PLASTIC PURGERY – BARBIE IN BONDAGE BREAKS THE INTERNET

Photographer Mariel Clayton Reinvents the Stereotype of the Female Form

Fiona Ma

Read more »
Share »

LOUIS VUITTON - SERIES 3 EXHIBITION

Nicolas Ghesquière: less mask, more man

Greg French

Read more »
Share »

REGENERATION OR GENTRIFICATION?

The changing face of London’s artistic communities

Peter Yeung

Read more »
Share »

INSIDE THE CHELSEA HOTEL

The legendary New York hangout of rockstars and Hollywood royalty

Ellie Howard

Read more »
Share »

IN CONVERSATION WITH OLAF BREUNING

The artist talks about the endless interpretations of his work and life

Ellie Howard

Read more »
Share »

REVEALED: KURT COBAIN'S ORIGINAL ARTWORK

A dark look into the mind of Nirvana’s tortured frontman

Daryl Mersom

Read more »
Share »

ABOUT A GIRL: TEENAGERS IN POP CULTURE

Exploring media fantasies from saints to bad-ass sinners of female youth

Leah Sinclair

Read more »
Share »

ART GONE VIRAL

Performance art videos are paving the way for activism through social media

Leah Sinclair

Read more »
Share »

IN CONVERSATION WITH ARTIST TOM LEAMON

The ritual experiments of painting and poetry

Ellie Howard

Read more »
Share »

COLLAGE ARTIST HOLLY-ANNE BUCK/COLLAGISM

We talk to the artist about playing with abstraction & reconstructing reality

Ellie Howard

Read more »
Share »

FROM UNISEX TO ANTI-FASHION

Meet Rudi Gernreich, the first gender blender fashion activist

Alessandro Esculapio

Read more »
Share »

THE REVIVAL OF WARP N’ WEFT

From artisan to art; the lost craft of tapestry is making a comeback

KOD Staff

Read more »
Share »

THE ALCHEMY OF COLLAGE: ARTISTS IRINA & SILVIU SZEKELY

Art is not art if it doesn’t generate misrepresentation, confusion, anger or sarcasm

Ellie Howard

Read more »
Share »

THE CREATIVE CLASS: MAKING IT THEIR WAY

Photographer Francesca Allen captures the talented, genuine and real

KOD Staff

Read more »
Share »

'80S ICON KEITH HARING’S POP SHOP

The Art and Commerce of Giving Back

Alessandro Esculapio

Read more »
Share »

THE DEATH OF BRONSON

The art and literature of "Charles Bronson"; Britain's most notorious prisoner

KOD Staff

Read more »
Share »

THE PSYCHEDELIC LOVE-IN OF THE FABULOUS COCKETTES

San Francisco’s original underground glitter troupe

KOD Staff

Read more »
Share »

THE MODERN DAY DANDY CULT

Old fashioned values and classic sartorial style returns to mens fashion

Ellie Howard

Read more »
Share »
Top