Sep 16, 2008

Antiques, Ads & Art, the AAA Combo

Many years ago, visiting some friends in Nigeria (they were working at the Argentine Embassy there) I was impressed by the simplicity and beauty of a wooden "piece of art" that my friends had at their house. But when I asked what it was representing exactly, I find out that it was in fact an outdoor ad... (kind of).

It was a relatively old sign for a hair salon, that my friends bought at a local market. At the time, I took a picture of it and as it tends to happen -at least to me- I lost the picture somewhere among my things.

But I am now in Buenos Aires, my friends are here too and lucky me, the sign followed them to their home here...

I took a new picture of it. It is now framed against a darker piece of wood and it is an exquisite decorative piece that I think could be called art, even if it was conceived as a very simple ad. Check it out:

Click to enlarge

Seeing it again, right after two days of browsing antiques shops, made me think about the relationship between advertisign and art. Not every ad is a piece of art, nor it should be (IMHO, but I know that is a pretty controversial topic among art designers in the industry).

On the other hand, once time has passed even the simplest ad becomes in some way a
piece of art, or at least a testimony of the design and trends of an era... what reinforces my position that you can say a lot about a society by just taking a look to the ads of a specific time and place.

Advertising reflects a way of thinking and a way of perceiving the world. So, while ads may not be art in its pure form, they are an invaluable piece of culture not just for the message in them but for what that message can tell us about a moment in time. Or how can you explain the Flintstones smoking and recommending Winston or nurses taking a beer at the hospital?

Keep tuned, there is more to come about "antique advertising"... I have been poking around my dad's office where I found magazines from 40 and 50 years ago, and some ads in those magazines are gems!

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