From Swizz Beatz and Bally, to Jeff Koons and Louis Vuitton, the just-released study looks at a host of corporate collaborations with visual artists, many of them elaborate and global in scope. There are “more and savvier” such collaborations these days, the study, now in its second year, from New York-based researcher Culture Projects notes.

The sticking point on such surveys has always been concrete proof, beyond a short-term social-media jump or press coverage, that such collaborations actually “work.” Interestingly, Culture Projects turned to insiders to set the measures of success, polling “77 people internationally drawn from the worlds of art, marketing and branding,” about half of whom are from the US with the rest from other regions including Europe and China. While the study didn’t break out arts projects specific to China, it does rank companies which have been extremely active there such as Gucci, Dior, etc.

Culture Projects asked respondents what brands get out of art sponsorships/collaborations. Source: Cultural Citizenship Survey

Respondents of the survey said the measures of success they consider the most important were the “artist’s satisfaction with the project,” “increase in brand’s perceived quality,” “and art world approval/critical response.” Using such metrics, Culture Projects names the top “Culture-Citizens” of 2018. In order: BMW, UBS (lead sponsor of the Art Basel Art Fairs), Audemars Piguet, Louis Vuitton (the brand has blurred lines between retail and art with shows in Hong Kong and Shanghai) and Absolut (the vodka has a vibrant contemporary art program for decades). However, it should be noted that the art world is small, and several of the top-ranked companies are ones Culture Projects has done business with.

Among fashion brands, Louis Vuitton ranks the highest, although its collaboration with Jeff Koons, famously using Rubens, van Gogh and Old Master images on “his” line of handbags and backpacks, comes in for some criticism from some respondents. (One called it “effective but old-fashioned,” another “obnoxious,” and, at the time, Chinese netizens were particularly critical.) Prada ranked 8th, Hugo Boss 13th, Gucci 16th and Dior, whose initiatives have included partnerships with several Chinese contemporary artists, 17th.

But what’s in it for the companies when brands become cultural patrons? The survey notes: “Donors to the arts are increasingly demanding transparent rationales and tangible indications of the benefits of their partnerships.” So, respondents also rated benefits to brands and three stood out: “visibility,” “expressing the company’s values/brand ideals,” and “giving back to the community/social responsibility.” A truly successful art collaboration should please the artist, the brand and the art world,  the study advises.

The industries most active in the field were financial services, followed by fashion, watches & jewelry, automotive and distilled spirits. (In the 2017 report, the fashion industry came in first, followed by finance.)

For the #GucciGift campaign—a collaboration between Artsy & Gucci—graphic designer Ignasi Monreal created shirts, shoes, bags, and accessories for the brand. His images were displayed in and on Gucci stores worldwide.

The study highlights several other prominent 2017 collaborations, including Swizz Beatz with both Bally and Bacardi; Fondazione Prada’s nightclub, as designed by Carsten Höller, at Art Basel Miami 2017; BMW’s “Lost Libraries of the Silk Road” project with artist Abigail Reynolds; and the Henry Moore Foundation and Burberry’s exhibition at Makers House, London. Culture Projects notes: There’s been “an evolution in the range and diversity of collaborations between brands and the arts.”

The study concludes: “The art world and cultural institutions may be able to unlock considerable resources by convincing high-street brands to seek value in arts collaborations.”





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