Vancouver Art Gallery campaign a bit of a blank canvas

Campaign from 123w promoting new art exhibit takes an unconventional approach

A new advertising campaign promoting the Vancouver Art Gallery’s latest exhibition appears to be missing a key element: the actual artwork.

It’s a calculated move by the gallery and its advertising agency, 123w, to promote “MashUp: The Birth Of Modern Culture,” which the gallery is describing as its “most ambitious exhibition” to date.

MashUp is a collection of images, objects, sounds and words from artists dating back decades. It features 371 works by 156 artists, filmmakers, architects, musicians and designers, such as Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, Juan Gris, Hannah Höch, Joseph Cornell, Andy Warhol and Frank Gehry, among many others.

The marketing campaign includes a TV spot, radio ad, out-of-home content as well as social and digital elements.

Rob Sweetman, founder and executive creative director at 123w, says the radio ad is about the idea of creation, featuring voices from celebrities and newsmakers throughout history, while the TV spot features two talking heads, which then merge, as they discuss the link between artists throughout time. None of the art work from the show is featured.

“I don’t know that I’ve ever seen an ad for a gallery that doesn’t show the artwork,” says Sweetman.  “Their commitment not to show it  — to make it more about the idea of the show — that is very unique.” The usual style when promoting exhibits is to include a piece of art, the dates and possibly reviews, he says.

The gallery also wanted to keep its message simple for this show. “You could’ve so easily tried to throw in 12 messages and got lost a little bit,” Sweetman says. “I think it’s pretty brave on their part to be so focused for such a complex show.”

Sweetman says some of the inspiration for the ad campaign came from the red and blue “MashUp” anaglyph used in the exhibition’s logo.

“We were also inspired by the show itself and the idea of how we got to where we are today … This overlap in art was quite compelling and interesting to us,” he says. “It felt like more fresh territory to go with the creative; getting people to think more about the show and almost imagining how big the show is, rather than showing them a small piece of it.”

The exhibition covers 35,000 square feet and all four floors of the gallery in downtown Vancouver. It opened to the public on Feb. 20.

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