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Product Placement

by Gary John Gresl

Let's face it. Getting your product in front of as many of the right people as possible usually means that the product sees a boost of interest, and potentially in sales. In that regard your art is no different than Coca Cola or Fig Newtons. For example, what might happen if an art work by your hand was seen in the new Indiana Jones film? Surely it would create a buzz about you...if only for a while. And if you were featured in something more humble, like a Public Television program that made it to national viewing, it is more than likely that the exposure would lead to more exposure. At the very least, such recognition will be viewed favorably when the resume is perused by the rich and influential.

Musicians have recognized that having their tune played in the background of car commercials or other product advertising will enliven interest in that tune...and in their other music. Old music from decades ago can be rekindled in the public interest when the music serves a new function and reaches a susceptible crowd.

Visual artists know that having their work shown in a major museum, a prominent gallery, or featured on some television program or print publication, will usually result in their names being propagated and further promoted. That buzz goes on. That reputation grows. People help enlarge and spread your myth by repeating the stories about you. In Milwaukee the news that Fred Stonehouse had some work purchased by Madonna gave more public credibility to Fred, and that association keeps on giving as it is repeated and repeated. (Hey! I just did it again.) That is a sort of product placement that we all would like to earn. One might question whether Madonna is a visual art taste maker, but one cannot question the fact that news of this famous ownership gets attention.

So, how do you gain the most advantageous product placement? Is there such a thing in Wisconsin? Where does your product get the most “bang for the buck”? The Milwaukee Art Museum? The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art? The Haggerty? In an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel? What other publications, print or electronic? A spot on public radio or TV? What commercial galleries can give one a boost in recognition? What outlets have impact, and what will reverberate for a long time and not be a mere momentary flash? There are few artists that become household names, especially outside of our regional sphere, and no one achieves that without good fortune, hard work, the right product and promotion.

But...maybe fame and recognition is not your goal anyway. Isn't our fall back position the realization that the time we spend making art is our core most basic reason for participation, and maybe our core most basic reason for feeling complete as individuals? Getting our work into the most useful of viewing situations should be part of our thought process, but maybe the most important product placement will always be in our studios...and in our heads.

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