Did Budweiser’s Tom Sachs Stunt Backfire? Is Damien Hirst’s Drake Cover Actually Good? + Other Questions I Have About Last Week’s Art News
Can we be saved from AR art dystopia? What to make of Rachel Dolezal's conceptual abstract art?
Curiosities is a column where I preserve for posterity the “you can’t make this up” parts of the art news.
Below, some questions posed by the events of the last week…
1) Can the Corporations Stop the Flood of Undesired Penis NFTs?
On August 25, beloved multinational beer conglomerate AB InBev made corporate marketing history when its management authorized its marketing department to authorize Budweiser’s social media manager to change the brand’s Twitter profile pic to an artwork by Tom Sachs.
Specifically, the work in question was a wonky picture of a rocket featuring the Budweiser logo, released as part of Sachs’s recent “Rocket Factory” NFT collection, and purchased as a flex by the beer brand for $25,000.
Needless to say, the news was a huge shot of pure cool for the NFT scene and the art scene alike. I mean, in the last month alone, the Budweiser Twitter account has put out such iconic Tweets as “Keep your friends close and your beers closer,” “If you build it, the Buds will come,” and the era-defining “Who on Twitter needs a beer the most today?”
And the stunt truly did attract attention. In fact, observers immediately noticed that following the announcement of the news of Budweiser’s rocket NFT, the brand’s OpenSea wallet at Beer.eth was suddenly awash with unwanted gift NFTs, including several that looked like penises.
Essentially, what started out trying to remind you of Budweiser’s trend-setting Web 3.0 appeal instead ended up reminding you of unwanted dick pics from the least cool guy in a fraternity (which is what you already associated Budweiser with anyway).
Nevertheless, as of this writing, Tom Sachs’s Bud Rocket is sharing online real estate with NFTs sent to Beer.eth in the last week such as “Sketchy Dad #63,” an image of a wasted-looking middle-aged man drinking a blue Slurpee, and a picture of a dirty, circular white rug, from a collection of NFT rug pictures.
The same user who shared “Minimalistic Cock” with Budweiser, crypto trader @SmolGrrr, also boasted of having done the same to Visa after it purchased a CryptoPunk for a headline-grabbing $165,000 as a similar PR stunt, just the week before:
The Visa case is a little complicated, as the payment card processor partnered with something called Anchorage Digital to facilitate and keep its digital purchase safe. So, it must be said that the image of Visa’s “CryptoPunk 7610” is not currently publicly viewable in a collection associated with Visa but instead can be found displayed in the funnest, coolest space on the internet: something called @WrappedCryptoPunks-Escrow.
To quote Visa’s slogan, you could put the state of things like this: Unsolicited Penis NFTs—they’re everywhere you want to be.
2) Is the Artist of the Future… a Glasshole?
Speaking of the unbridled promise of the metaverse…
Over at Forbes.com, futurist Cathy Hackl offers a day-in-the-life picture of what the future of art could be like, if we can just, finally, please, get everybody sold on the idea that they really, really want Google Glass-style augmented reality spectacles.
Trust Hackl, you are going to love it. She gives us the story of “Katie,” a totally relatable “manufacturing technologist” from a future AR-enriched paradise who “just won a big contract to help one of the top virtual fashion brands with its latest digital human campaign” (not only that, but her sister was “one of the first people to realize that direct to consumer was morphing into direct to avatar!” What a family!)
Imagine the magical world your lunch break could be, with your stylish AR glasses:
Katie takes her sandwich and heads to the park across the street to visit her friend’s recently uploaded art exhibit. The park bench Katie sits on turns into a bridge. Under Katie’s feet, a river rushes by, digital stone fish, like from a fountain, jump upstream, digitally splashing Katie’s lap. Katie gets a call from her boss who digitally appears on the bench next to her. “We have a new client, can you come into the office this afternoon?” Katie says yes. The hologram disappears.
You’re telling me that there’s a future where I can go to the park and sit on a bridge that is not there instead of sitting on a bench? And digitally be joined by a 3D avatar of my boss? Who tells me to go back to work? Sign me up!
Elsewhere, Hackl promises that AR will enable us to, finally, realistically integrate unicorns into our mindfulness practice and also to “meet in virtual Venice for a gondola ride and virtual performance from Andrea Bocelli’s AI.”
In this fable, Katie’s boyfriend Marco is also an artist, who for some reason is making another AR river art installation in Costa Rica (why is all future AR art river-themed?). As Marco uses goggle-based telepresence to show Katie the wonders he is inserting into the virgin rain forest, Hackl briefly imagines, in a PG update of the mortifying VR sex scene from Lawnmower Man, how “the nanobots in Katie’s chapstick tingle, making her feel for a moment that she was with Marco under the Costa Rican stars.”
(I hate to break it to Katie, but if telepresence is so easy in AR World, then the reason that Marco actually went in person to Costa Rica to install his art installation is… well, somebody’s non-nanobot-based chapstick may be tingling, let’s put it like that.)
I will say this for Hackl’s “A Day in the Life of the Metaverse”: If you read between the lines, you can see a flash of the truth of contemporary tech shine through. Whatever it promises for art, its big uses in practice will be advertising, keeping workers in line, and adult entertainment.
3) What Is the Deal With Rachel Dolezal’s Art?
I actually don’t take a ton of glee in the news that Rachel Dolezal is selling art now (I guess Chris Rock showed off a work he owns by her last year), and is on OnlyFans to boot, promising to let subscribers watch her paint and also see “foot pics.” This person just seems very lost and not in touch with reality.
She seems to be selling lookalike Glenn Ligon art without acknowledging that she is doing so. Dolezal’s rep gave this non-comment to Wet Paint last week when asked about the similarity: “Rachel uses her art to underscore the necessity of standing up against inequality and injustice,” which is one of those “answer the question you wanted to be asked”-style PR moves. It just seems too on the nose as a symbol of someone who really doesn’t know where their own identity begins and ends.
Still, the artwork that leaps out at me on her website is You’re White, a rare abstract work in the Dolezal oeuvre, a white-on-white canvas described thusly: “A highly textured abstract painting, in the genre of ‘white paintings’ that some artists visit, ‘You’re White’ is a reflection by Rachel of the most frequently-heard statement toward her since 2015.” I don’t have a lot to add here, I just love that phrasing: “the genre of ‘white paintings’ that some artists visit…”
4) Is Damien Hirst’s Certified Lover Boy Cover Actually Good?
Hirst’s Certified Lover Boy artwork is no Andy Warhol Velvet Underground banana. But I gotta say, people are being too hard on it. It does what pop art does: takes a familiar thing, repeats it with as little change as possible to claim it, piggybacks on its familiarity but reframes it to bring out its weirdness or surrealism.
“Twitter making fun of X” is the biggest #DogBitesMan story there is. People are like, “social media is mercilessly meme-ing Drake” as if that’s not the exact definition of media success, or as if Hirst hasn’t built an entire career of riding fake media outrage to the bank.
Again, not saying it’s the greatest thing ever, just that a lot of the criticism of it to me seems a lot like people saying, “This pop song has a chorus! That repeats! It’s like they’re just… trying to get you to sing along or something!”
About the album itself, I am not qualified to comment. I will tell you @SmolGrrr, of “Minimalistic Cock” fame, is a fan.
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