Irony Alert! Newmark Retail Ad Imitates Art Skewering Consumerism

A real estate broker has plastered an Upper West Side retail space with an advertisement imitating (or celebrating) the work

A real estate broker has plastered an Upper West Side retail space with an advertisement imitating (or celebrating) the work of renowned artist Barbara Kruger, who, interestingly enough, borrowed imagery from advertisements in order to criticize consumerism, according to an article in today’s Washington Post.

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Said real estate broker is Matt Harnett, a photographer and one-time teacher at the School of Visual Arts, who called the ad for retail space at the foot of 2625 Broadway an "ode to Barbara Kruger."

But borrowing from an anti-consumerist artist to promote consumerism is, well, sort of mind-bending. Of course, ad folks have been borrowing from the art world for ages. But, as Post reporter Blake Gopnik put it:

The Kruger case is more noteworthy only because this time there’s such an extreme flip in intent between the critical art and the complacent advertising that riffs on its style. Lichtenstein and Warhol were as keen to express genuine affection for their low-culture sources as to treat them with disdain or irony. With Kruger, the critique of the source is more pointed, which makes the reappropriation of her style into pop culture that much stranger.

Kruger might borrow the look of commercial art, but her words were meant to stuff new content into it. When you compare her work with the real estate ads, she says, "if you look at the meaning, it’s not the same thing they’re doing."

Mr. Gopnik sure does have a point. Then again, given the sheer dullness of most real estate ads, there’s something to be said for the sheer aesthetic value of both Ms. Kruger’s work, and Mr. Harnett’s "ode" to her work, something Mr. Gopnik also acknowledged:

Sometimes — maybe even most of the time — the look of an image is itself the thing we care most about it. Its look is its crucial content. Its style is its meaning; it’s what gets distilled out of it, as the message we take home. When a real estate agent borrows Kruger’s look and leaves most of her ideas behind, he may be treating art the way most of us do.

For more on Barbara Kruger, click here.

Irony Alert! Newmark Retail Ad Imitates Art Skewering Consumerism