Class like Mark Wallinger
Class for ad's sake
Mark Wallinger was celebrated member of the YBAs (Young British Artists) that included Damien Hirst, Tracy Emin and Sarah Lucas.
His work tended to focus on social commentary, taking a wry look at British life and in particular, the societal structures that held Britain in place.
He also had a passion for horse racing. It was a passion that he had intended to keep separated from his art, but the parallels to his artistic work were all too undeniable.
He described the racing world as “a microcosm of British society”. There was, and remains a definite ‘upstairs-downstairs’ vibe to the whole endeavor, from those destined to muck out stables to the ones sloshing champers in the owner’s box.
There was also the matter of bloodlines and incest – a clear nod to the upper classes...
So in 1993, he decided to buy a racehorse.
It was named “A Real Work of Art”.
Wallinger wanted to push the concept of Marcel Duchamp’s ready-mades even further, breaking the ‘rules’ that seemed to state that literally anything could be declared ‘art’ as long as it was placed within the context of a museum.
Wallinger questioned the need for a museum – why couldn’t anything in the world be declared art by an artist?
In this way, the highly conceptual “flesh and bone” ready-made fought against the institution of the museums as the all powerful judges of what is or isn’t art.
Just as racehorses have core associations with the systems of society and identity, so does art with similar systems within culture. This “Real Work of Art” was a powerful representation of both systems.
And to top it off, Wallinger also branded his horse with the colours of the Suffragette movement and made multiple references to Emily Davison – the suffragette who famously threw herself in front of the King’s horse in a triumphant protest against the systems of oppression that came from on high.
Is it better to punch up? Is it ever ok to punch down?
Popular culture has perhaps never been more obsessed with taking down the upper classes and the elite. From Succession, to Triangle of Sadness, the Housewives franchise, Don’t Look Up and so on, and so on we’re revelling in seeing the rich and powerful come undone.
It’s them versus us, and we can do it in advertising too.
And we can have it both ways. Here’s some great examples of adveritsing creativity through the prism of the class system:
A classic bit of them and us from Campari
Pot Noodle expertly subverting the usual tropes of the working class sporting greatness story.
Take that, luxury car owners!
The famously ‘banned’ Chav Traquilizer Paddy Power spot.
A brutally funny Harrods ad.
Pepparami say no to posh.
Lidl pie M&S in quite the delicious special build.
Couldn’t leave the lovely Joanna Lumley out.
When you can’t beat them, join them.
Well that was rather good wasn’t it?
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And they’re off!
Want to hear more about Mark Wallinger’s literal real work of art? Listen to his episode of Kunst Please:
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