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Top 5 Famous Pieces of Art Used in Ad Campaigns
What about famous art that's been used in adverts?
Art Stuff 26 Jul 2022

Adverts are everywhere – on the street, on TV, in our phones. Almost all of us consume the visuals of advertisements more than we consume visual art as we know it in a traditional sense. Some famous advert designs are now considered art in their own right, especially the beautiful illustrations of the early 20th Century. But what about famous art that’s been used in adverts? Here are our top 5.

Basquiat: Tiffany

Image via tiffany.com

This Tiffany advert starring celebrity power couple Beyoncé and Jay Z starred Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Equals pi (1982) painting in the backdrop. The ‘About Love’ campaign was all about romance and glamour, and the robin’s-egg-blue painting seemed a perfect prop (which it is thought was acquired for an eight-figure sum). It was even claimed that the painting’s blue shade was initially inspired by Tiffany, who popularised the colour. Friends of Basquiat all shot the advert down, Alexis Adler saying “the commercialisation and commodification of Jean and his art at this point – it’s really not what Jean was about…”

Magritte: Allianz

Image via adsoftheworld.com

German financial services giant Allianz harnessed René Magritte’s The Treachery of Images (1929) in their four-part series of adverts advertising their insurance policies. The four posters read:

• This is not a roof. / This is a painful bump provocateur.
• This is not a hammer. / This is a common finger squasher.
• This is not a banana peel. / This is a malicious back bruiser.
• This is not a pipe. / This is a fatal bronchia-contaminator.


Van Gogh: Keloptic

Image via mymodernmet.com

This award-winning advert for French-spectacle retailer KelOptic featured the works of Van Gogh, Monet, and Seurat. When the glasses were passed over the masterpieces, they sprung into IRL detail. The tagline ‘turning impressionism into hyperrealism’ played on early criticism of the Impressionists, that their work was just a blurry version of reality (and not what you’d want from your spectacles).

Millais: Pears Soap

When Sir John Everett Millais’ Bubbles (1886) was used in an advertisement for Pears soap, not everyone was impressed. Novelist Marie Corelli told the artist that “I look upon all Pears posters as gross libels both of your work and you”. Ouch. The painting was purchased by Thomas J Barratt – the managing director of A & F Pears – for £2,200 from Sir William Ingram (who had acquired it to reproduce in The Illustrated London News) and despite his misgivings about it, Millais did agree. The company did seem to fit well with the painting, showing Millais’ grandson looking at bubbles he had blown. Millais’ son did claim that the artist had tried to stop the advert going out but lacked the legal standing.

Rodin: Honda

Image via adforum.com

Think much about fine art when you’re buying your cars? Us neither. But Honda put Rodin’s sculpture The Thinker to good us in their advert for their Accord Sedan car. The sculpture was initially made as part of a larger commission The Gates of Hell in 1880 but was cast in its own right in 1904. The advertisement’s tag line was “thoughtful, through and through”, let ing you know that every detail was “deeply contemplated”.

Author: Verity Babbs

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