Issue 10 Property Spring 2003
Product Line: An Interview with Kristin Ehring
Carey Young and Kristin Ehring
ArtMerchandising & Media AG is a multinational corporation that advertises itself as "taking artworks out of museums and into everyday life." With a portfolio of some of the world's most renowned artists (including van Gogh, Hopper, Haring, Mapplethorpe, Scharf, and Warhol), this Munich-based company is a market leader in the multi-billion dollar art licensing industry. In addition to the merchandising of art rights to manufacturers for use on products and printed material, the company structures licensing deals for promotions with advertisers and corporations. The artist Carey Young interviewed Kristin Ehring, Executive Director of ArtMerchandising, by email.
I'm very interested in the notion of marketing an "artist's lifestyle." How would you define this, in commercial terms?
Generally speaking, art licensing can be an effective instrument for generating brand awareness. Therefore not only the art but also the lifestyle of an artist, if it is in some way unusual or memorable, is essential for licensing as it is an integrated part of the artist's brand as a whole. To return to Dali, such an eccentric artist can be seen to represent highly creative, brilliant, and inimitable individuals. If you use Dali for a promotional licensing campaign, you can be sure that the consumer association with the promoted product or brand will be connected with these values.
What "ethical" parameters can be set by an artist's estate in terms of the use of their works?
The ethical parameters differ from artist to artist, respectively from estate to estate, and need to be treated individually. We always agree on certain product conversions or general positioning of the artist's brand. For example, some artists or estates have provisos against the promotion of products such as tobacco or alcohol. On the other hand, some artist or estates are very open to various kinds of licensing, if they are convinced that the brand and the conversion of their art onto the product matches their artistic philosophy as a whole.
How interdependent is the relationship between the value of an artist's work on the art market and their value or popularity in terms of licensing?
It is true that famous artists like Keith Haring or Vincent van Gogh bring high popularity. This would imply that the relationship between the value of an artist's work on the art market and the value in terms of licensing is interdependent, but this is not inevitably the case. Actually, we also have some promising young and emerging artists in our portfolio who are not yet well-known on the international art market, but who are doing very well in terms of licensing.
How and where do you find young artists to work with?
Since we've enjoyed a high profile in the international art licensing market since 1999, we are now in the fortunate position that artists actually contact us.
Kristin Ehring is executive director of ArtMerchandising & Media AG based in Munich.
Carey Young is a London-based artist who appropriates business ideas and techniques within her work in order to explore ideas of identity, strategy, and progress. Her work can be seen at the ICA in London in April as part of the Beck’s Futures awards 2003.
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© 2003 Cabinet Magazine