Hans Heiner Buhr is an artist I’ve only recently begun to know. He has begun an art site called the Art Club Caucasus where a lively discussion about art can always be found. Hans is an adventurer, a thinker, and an artist – three things I hold in high regard- and he approached the questions about Style Vs Brand exactly in that manner, first with a flurry of uploaded notes and then with direct answers about how he sees these things working for artists.
MS: I wanted to examine the hard public part of an artists work and career and how those parts of our lives might be perceived – how one might play into the other. I think that 21st Century media environments may have changed our understandings and expectations concerning a career in art. There has been a real shift in how we perceive artists and their work especially since Warhol.
HHB: Warhol was one of the first to create a collective, but already much longer before, artists started to prefer again the potentials and protection of Art Groups, like the Brücke, Futurists etc. I think Warhol’s success was a direct result of the Factory Concept, it just was wrongly labeled Warhol instead of Factory. This was chosen by the Mass Media, as the Warhol-geek could be better marketed.
MS: It seems to me that there are two things guiding market perceptions of artists’ work – styles and brands. I believe Warhol was the first to create a true brand in the same sense as corporations create brands – and by that I mean an accessible product that can be reproduced, marketed and sold – something tied to a recognizable “name” or celebrity. This is inherently different from an artist’s traditional development of a style. Style used to come through in the making of art or better through the living of art. Style is intimately connected to the artist and is looked at as a unique embodiment of the artistic impulse. “Style” develops through practice, whereas “Brand” is a more conceptual approach to art making, brands sort of arrive familiarly full-blown.
HHB: Artists very often changed their styles, look close to the development of Pollock, it’s all the time changing. Styles and Brands are both wrongly picking our attention, it should be instead the concepts, which choose/demand a certain style as a package. A brand is only interesting, if it is a label for an interesting concept.
MS: What do you see as the difference between an artist’s style or an artist’s brand? Is there such a difference any longer? Does an artist have to develop a style or brand or can one appropriate a style or brand? Do you find that “media” feeds these distinctions in how an artist’s work is perceived?
HHB: Yes, of course, ideally a collective forms a brand, where are included many different individual artistic styles, which change and develop all the time in relation to the contemporary project/concept. Styles can be approved, as true new styles (maybe) do not exist anymore. Like the basic style for text are letters, which can form endless new content. All possible artistic styles should be used to create new images and new (interesting) meaning/interpretation. The media loves brands, they give a shit for the style, as they are not interested yet in the concept. Did anybody try to look deeply in Murakami’s concept yet (has he one ?) Btw I am not a big fan of Murakami’s works, he is just an example for those working (collective) like Koons, Hirst etc. but branding their work wrongly. The (print) media and their outlets are not healthy collectives as they are run by individual bosses like dictatorships.
MS: Behind the idea of known style or a known brand are concepts of fame or recognition. For instance the current crop of Postmodern artists that are in the news seem to “put on” or “wear” a type of art fame that is easily defined and already known making it easier to connect with their brands or styles – Jeff Koons as a business man (well-appointed designer suits and ad-man sound bites), Damien Hirst as a Rockstar (looking and sounding more like Bono every day), and Murakami as a tech geek (like George Lucas and his Skywalker lab.) All three have assumed media images of artists designed to be familiar and stable, based on a prototypical business formula. This concept of fame which is directed at selling art or the artist or creating a brand focus is different even than Warhol’s artist persona – he remained a sort of show, outside of the mainstream, a caricature or an avatar of a downtown art-type. The main difference is that he continued to be an artist that played at being a businessman, while today’s artists are more like businessmen who make art.
What do you see as being the functions of fame in the art world today and how does this relate to brand making or style making? How has this changed the practices in the studio and in the public eye? What part does creativity play in the development of both fame and business and what part should it play in developing art? What sort of fame do you see artists trying to obtain? How does the attainment of recognition affect the understanding and acceptance of certain artists? How much does this public recognition factor play into the creation and presentation of the work itself? Finally does the idea of style or brand or the creation of a style or brand inform your work – do you see yourself creating a brand or forming a style or both? Is fame and recognition a consideration of that development and if so how?
HHB: For me fame is not necessary, I even do not want fame. Fame is fake, when it’s not about the fame of a good concept. I would like to be an artist freely inventing ideas, concepts, projects, styles – paid with a monthly salary like a Google employer and adding units of form to the art collective. Recognition comes via attention to good concepts. The Collective should sell good ideas and concepts to gain revenues. A work without attention/recognition does not exist. This should come from other collectives/artists, which find these concepts interesting to integrate in their own concepts/works (You see how much here negative is the whole Copyright-Bullshit) I would like to contribute to co-create the Art Club Caucasus as a brand, but this will succeed only, if it becomes a strong collective, what is it not yet, it is in a pre-stadium of formation right now Styles can be freely chosen any time. The power is the network of ideas, concepts, styles which is only in state for a couple of years now. So it’s a very early stadium. I remember the feel of joy, when I got connected to the Internet in 2000 here from the Georgian Hinterland (I was connected in Berlin in 1994). I got able to publish my works to the world, to the few, for whom it is of interest, the dictatorship of Media, Galleries, Curators, Museums, bad time ~ bad~ place~ handicaps were destroyed.
Hans is offering a different view of our art world times, and a new idea of how we might change the constructs and systems we’ve inherited. The Art Club Caucasus is catching on with artists around the world. The Art Club is using the internet to create a vibrant site of images and ideas for artists. Check it out!
We will continue our discussion with other artists about Style Vs Brand in upcoming posts – Stay Tuned!