My name is Charles Saatchi and I am an alcoholic: given the growing trend for sprinkling the magical commercial fairy dust that is “Art” onto consumable liquid, this would have been the perfect slogan for the market-defining marketer, if indeed he were still actually defining the market. For even David Beckham has cottoned on that high-end alcoholic beverages are the new fashionable way to express yourself as a brand, releasing his own Single Grain effort – Haig Club – via spirits behemoth Diageo in a vessel that wouldn’t look out of place in duty-free perfume aisles. Indeed, it speaks volumes about its cynical marketing that the intended audience are no more likely to be able to distinguish it from a trendy fragrance than they are to know that Single Grain whisky sits in its own category apart from single malted barley spirits which in actuality make up the vast majority of the whisky market. Before David Beckham you never before knew how much you really want to buy whisky, and maybe even drink it.
At the more ruthless end of the commercial fairy dust is the sequence of Becks beer labels – titled ‘Live Beyond Labels’ (the omission of “the” conspicuously keeping the irony barometer just below nausea level). Hardly collectible, the purpose here is not so much to raise the monetary or even aesthetic value of the humble drink, but to steal profit from other generic beers jostling for space in fridges of the student union bar; the achingly hipster pub; the Tate’s collaboration with uber club/hole Fabric. It’s art as branding at its most aggressive; our attraction to bright colour dictates our choice: whether the visuals enhance the experience or merely highlight the banality of the contents, Becks have still got your cash.
The Andy Warhol prize for the most earnestly un-ironic art as branding effort goes to the yearly release of über luxury product Dom Pérignon. Like Damien Hirst relying on titles/Conceptualism to lend tangible value to dismembered livestock – ‘The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living’ as a title exists harmoniously and independently of its unfortunate attachment, a dead shark – so Art is used to lend distinction to commercial products. Dom Pérignon RRP usually hovers around £130.00, yet limited editions initially bought at this price continue to rise in value. The Andy Warhol expression, bearing simple red, blue and yellow labels (must collect all or worthless!), artistically barren and almost insultingly unimaginative, reached a market peak value of ca £216.00 in 2014 (Source: Wine-searcher). It mirrors perfectly – and perhaps not entirely unintentionally? – the Factory producing Monroes and Kennedys in all colours yet bearing the same essential design, doing his legacy proud: “Making money is art and good business is the best art.” The Jeff Koons Venus edition, means that you too, without having to become an arms dealer/Russian oligarch’s plaything can own a real Jeff Koons, so he can continue masturbating all the way to the bank. You too can imbibe the magical elixir of Art and drunkenly stumble from the Turner Prize awards dinner like a real artist, spouting Tracey Emin’s immortal words: “I don’t give an f”.