Pop Life at Tate Modern, London (2009)

featuring an ADP Marilyn Manson intervention...

R.J. Preece (ADP)
Art Design Publicity at ADC | 8 October 2009

Pop Life at Tate Modern, London

(As a musical accompaniment to this article, we offer you a little song, already a classic, by Marilyn Manson. He also definitely knows a thing or two about Pop Life and publicity. The song is This is the new shit from his CD The Golden Age of Grotesque ...)

We’re quite excited here at ADP about the new exhibition Pop Life: Art in a Material World, from Warhol to Hirst. In fact, the show presents an excellent opportunity to approach various topics concerning the show for our growing readership. This we will do over the coming weeks—and months even!

For those of you who haven’t been on the London art media watch, the show has gone through three name-and-marketing changes—and angles. First there was the surprisingly provocative Sold Out, but something obviously occurred to prompt a name change. Then there was the exciting Artist in the Age of Publicity, but apparently there were objections to that one too (with the announcement since removed from the Tate website unfortunately)...

Afterwards however another name change occurred to the more neutral Pop Life. Perhaps this is more sensitive to the marketing needs of the high-powered, yet disconnected, team. After all, most involved are essentially small, independent shops selling, yes, rather elite and fashionable wares. Taking into account the various negotiations among stakeholders involved in the show— the curators, gallerists, artists, collectors, management, etc.—it may be a small miracle that interests were aligned and the show is even up, no matter what the strategic communications, uh, curatorial vision, is.

We however at ADP are biased, and obviously opt for the second title The Artist—and the Museum—in the Age of Publicity. Yes, we added a couple of words to it...

But then we rather fortunately don’t need to negotiate with any art world players beyond our editorial staff and advisors. And we certainly don’t need to get artworks into any kind of exhibition space.

A little appetizer...

So as an introduction, we offer you the Tate Modern press release. This writing genre is the leading document when it comes to Art and Design in the Age of Mass Media. Copyright-free and potentially distributed to hundreds of art and general media outlets globally, the press release is designed to go directly into editorial copy.

Pop Life: Art in a Material World

Press View: 29 September 2009
Tate Modern Level 4 West
Thursday 1 October 2009 – Sunday 17 January 2010
Admission £12.50 (concessions)
Opening hours: Sunday to Thursday, 10.00–18.00. Friday and Saturday, 10.00–22.00. Last admission into exhibitions 17.15 (Friday and Saturday 21.15).
Public information number: 020 7887 8888.

Press release: 24 September 2009

Pop Life: Art in a Material World proposes a re-reading of one of the major legacies of Pop Art. The exhibition takes Andy Warhol’s notorious provocation that ‘good business is the best art’ as a starting point in reconsidering the legacy of Pop Art and the influence of the movement’s chief protagonist. Pop Life: Art in a Material World looks ahead to the various ways that artists since the 1980s have engaged with mass media and cultivated artistic personas creating their own signature ’brands’. Among the artists represented are Tracey Emin, Keith Haring, Damien Hirst, Martin Kippenberger, Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami and Richard Prince.

Pop Life: Art in a Material World argues that Warhol’s most radical lesson is reflected in the work of artists of subsequent generations who, rather than simply representing or commenting upon our mass media culture, have infiltrated the publicity machine and the marketplace as a deliberate strategy. Harnessing the power of the celebrity system and expanding their reach beyond the art world and into the wider world of commerce, these artists exploit channels that engage audiences both inside and outside the gallery. The conflation of culture and commerce is typically seen as a betrayal of the values associated with modern art; this exhibition contends that, for many artists working after Warhol, to cross this line is to engage with modern life on its own terms.

The show begins with a focused look at Warhol’s late work, examining his related initiatives as a television personality, paparazzo, and publishing impresario. Highlights include a number of works from his initially controversial series known as the Retrospectives or Reversals. Reprising his celebrated Pop icons from the 1960s, in a manner initially deemed cynical, the Retrospectives look ahead to installations by a number of artists including Martin Kippenberger and Tracey Emin, who overtly engage the self-mythologizing impulse manipulating their personas as a medium, like silkscreen or paint.

Pop Life: Art in a Material World includes reconstructions of both Keith Haring’s Pop Shop and Jeff Koons’s seldom reunited Made in Heaven. Haring opened the Pop Shop in 1986 on New York’s Lafayette St. to merchandise his branded artistic signature as editioned objects such as t-shirts, toys and magnets aimed at as wide an audience as possible. Jeff Koons’s Made in Heaven, which debuted at the Venice Bienniale in 1990, immortalized his marital union with the Italian porn star and politician known as La Cicciolina. A specially-commissioned new installation by the celebrated Japanese artist Takashi Murakami debuts in the exhibition’s final gallery.

A gallery dedicated to the so-called ‘Young British Artists’ focuses on their early performative exploits including ephemera from Tracey Emin and Sarah Lucas’s shop in Bethnal Green where they created and sold their work. Renowned pieces such as Gavin Turk’s Pop 1993 also feature, as does selected works representing Damien Hirst’s recent Sotheby’s auction, Beautiful Inside My Head Forever. Tate Modern will also restage Hirst’s performance originally shown at Cologne’s ‘Unfair’ art fair in 1992. Identical twins will sit beneath two identical spot paintings for the duration of Pop Life: Art in a Material World. Tate Modern is appealing for identical twins to take part in this performance.

The exhibition is organized by Tate Modern and is co-curated by Jack Bankowsky, Artforum’s Editor at Large, Alison M. Gingeras, Chief Curator of the François Pinault Collection and Catherine Wood, Tate Modern Curator of Contemporary Art and Performance, assisted by Nicholas Cullinan, Curator, International Modern Art, Tate Modern. Pop Life: Art in a Material World will travel to the Hamburger Kunsthalle from 6 February – 9 May 2010 and then to the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa from 11 June – 19 September 2010. The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue.

For further information contact Daisy Mallabar/Oliver Krug, Tate Press Office, Millbank, London SW1P 4RG Call 020 7887 8731/8730 Fax 020 7887 8729, Email pressoffice@tate.org.uk

How effective is this press release?

Now if our arts PR enthusiasts out there want to get a sense of the media power of the exhibition, we suggest copying and pasting key, jazzy sentences and phrases from the release above, and searching them in Google ’news’ or ’web’. Which phrasing—and how much—was transplanted into editorial copy?

Further, if you are looking for different embedded angles and resultant news coverage, try searching "Tate" +"Brooke Shields" + (the lesser-known celebrity) "Richard Prince" to witness the effectiveness of media sensation elements built into the show for consumption by art, celebrity, and general news outlets. Also, Jeff Koons’ Ilona’s Asshole (1991) will probably excite the media with a little more Sensation, part II. To check out the porn, we mean Art, see the review on artnet.com and scroll down. We’re convinced there’s a lot of relevant theory in this work, so do take a long look, over 18s/21s only!

Performance art, Tate Modern-style?

But one key question emerges: like Damien’s Hirst Sotheby’s sale last year, is this art show also team-oriented, concept-based performance art—with built-in media coverage hooks and discussion-generation?

If you’ve been following ADP, then you do know our response to this question. But if CNN International, BBC World, and national news networks across the globe don’t pick it up, then unfortunately the announcement of the "sale" of Damien Hirst’s diamond skull still reigns.

Pop Life, Tate Modern at artdesigncafe