The process of launching Hayworth has ingrained in me an almost-subconscious, discerning eye for marketing, both material and experiential. I’ve always had a keen interest in propaganda posters — I encourage everyone reading this to immediately march over to kurimanzutto new york to experience their latest project — and the different modes by which we consume and propagate visual rhetoric, particularly in the digital age.
It is no doubt that we’ve hit the zenith in terms of the proliferation of media culture, but there is no greater tribute to the consumption — and regurgitation — of cultural rhetoric than evidenced by the outpouring of denizens in New York City in the weeks following Labor Day when the art and fashion world emerged from its month-long hibernation.
As the fall season kicked off with a cacophonous bang, I watched arts professionals, press, artist, students, and laymen alike scuttle across Chelsea’s first-Thursday opening seeking the latest and the buzziest of exhibitions to direct their gaze and their social media feed. While my fellow peers scanned the horizon for the most eye-catching artworks and apropos settings to adorn their mosaics, shaking blue-chip hands and blowing air kisses at well-rouged cheeks, I stood astounded by the sheer convening power wielded by a handful of galleries in Manhattan’s western-most neighborhood.
Needless to say, the exhibitions at the apex of the New York City to-do list had earned the attention: Liza Lou inaugurated a brand new nine-story Peter Marino building, Urs Fischer animated artificially intelligent chairs in a kitschy 1970s color palette, and David Zwirner mounted an intergenerational blockbuster exhibition straight from pages of the art historical canon.
The aftermath was akin to grown-up Halloween and I reminisced over the spectacle as I plucked a dozen or so uniquely formatted, sophisticated press releases from the bowels of my art-going tote. And truly — whether you were present for the opening night festivities or returned for a quieter, more introspective digestion of the latest in artistic output — the whole experience can be credited to and as ‘marketing’.
Perhaps the most thought-provoking among my September back-to-school cultural experiences was not in the art world at all, but rather in the fashion-lifestyle sector. Set your influencer-radar to New York City’s Soho neighborhood and you’d find a A.Human — quite literally an experiential marketing exercise that almost solely leveraged on mystique, social media, and Kardashian-fueled influencer power to generate its prolific buzz. As someone who rather loathes our contemporary selfie culture and who would confidently call the A.Human experience an experiential marketing production, I was aghast to find myself warming up to hyper-saturated backdrops and surrealistic props that allowed me to snap some cheeky, playful photos among good friends.
All this is to say — previously, I had spoken about the ‘fish’ and the ‘farm’, and how arts institutions today need to cultivate quality programmatic experiences to truly engage an attention-deficit, yet culturally-savvy audience. It has become apparent that now, more than ever, it is about building and nurturing a captive constituency of individuals through personal experience — both digital and analog. We have the means to be more vocal now than ever, and as professionals in the culture sector, we are tasked with continuously upping our ante to create authentic connections and produce generous experiences to confidently take us into the next generation.
top image // Ellie Hayworth at A.Human in Soho, New York.