Friday, February 13, 2015

Fruit by Nike and Pickles by Chanel: Consumerism and Art

Do you ever think about the brand or packaging of your flour? What about your eggs or your yogurt? What if your flour was by Prada, your eggs from Versace and your yogurt made by Tiffany & Co.?

Peddy Mergui, an artist from Israel, explored the idea of adding luxury labels to common groceries in his exhibition “Wheat is Wheat is Wheat,” on view last year at the San Francisco Museum of Craft and Design. This May, the exhibition will travel to Italy at Expo Milano 2015.

The SFMCD characterizes “Wheat is Wheat is Wheat” as asking “What does the consumer actually purchase when he or she pays top dollar for a ‘BRAND’ of wheat/flour, or table salt?” It’s an interesting question. When we buy a product, even something as common as flour, are we paying for the actual product or the name on the label? Does a higher-end brand always mean a better quality product?

Mergui told National Public Radio that, one day, a coworker saw him designing “Chanel infant formula” and asked where she could buy it for her own infant. That day, he said, he became aware of the power luxury brands had over consumers. From there, things spiraled into what would become “Wheat is Wheat is Wheat,” which serves as commentary on the practices of consumers.

Art is an interesting and creative way for people to make remarks about the state of our society. This is not a new idea. Today, Mergui comments on consumerism and street artist Banksy frequently calls for peace through his paintings on buildings and sidewalks. In the 18th century, French artist Jean-Baptiste Greuze remarked on domestic strife in many of his works of art.

You can view the photos used in this post as well as other pieces in Mergui's exhibit here.

Do you agree with Mergui’s opinion that we are buying the brand over the product?

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