Often when looking at a work of art, the first question to pop into the viewer’s head isn’t, ‘What’s it called?’ or ‘What’s it about?’. Rather it is, ‘Who’s it by?’. The more discerning viewer may ask the first two questions, but most will ask the third. Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, Francis Bacon, Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst are some of the biggest names in modern and contemporary art. It is hard to find someone who has never heard of Picasso before. Yet how many could name the title of one of his many paintings?
Picasso is a brand in the same way that fashion giants Prada, Armani, Chanel and Louis Vuitton are brands. When one looks at a suit, most will invariably try to find out what brand or label it is over any investigations regarding it’s intrinsic qualities. It’s the same with other ubiquitous consumer products like Coca Cola. You can buy a cheaper supermarket cola, which may even contain the exact same ingredients, yet it will never have the same cachet as a ‘Coke’.
The following story encapsulates perfectly the power of ‘Who’s it By’. The artist Bansky recently tested this by submitting an original work of art for the 2018 Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art in London under the fictitious name ‘Bryan S Gakmann’ (an anagram of ‘Banksy anagram’). It got rejected during the selection process. Nobody had heard of this Bryan S Gakmann chap. Yet when Banksy himself was asked to feature a work at the show by the organizers, he submitted the work rejected under his fake alias. After all, it was a ‘Banksy’ in the end.
By Nicholas Peart
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