Art Or Advertisment?

Posted by Jeff Penfield on 14 July 2014

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Just before the weekend, the LA Times posted a story about Foster The People's giant mural on the side of a downtown building at 539 S. Los Angeles St. The mural was painted in anticipation of their latest album Supermodel and it mirrors the artwork for the album. They received permits from the city to paint it, however the permits were recinded last week. Why? The city claimed that is was an advertisement for the album, which is against city regulation. Late last night, thanks to a petition started after Friday's announcement, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has saved it from being removed.

Supermodel Mural

This came a week after a mural in Philadelphia that was used as artwork for Kurt Vile's album Walkin On A Pretty Daze was painted over. The perpitrator who painted over the mural there said the it was attracting graffiti in the neighborhood.

So that leads to this question: murals by musicians, artwork or advertisement?

Looking at Foster The People's mural here in Los Angeles, there was no specific mention of the album on the mural. Although the painting of it was used in a promotional video and the band performed a special concert there, there was no further use to promote the release. Mark Foster, lead singer of the band, said he simply wanted to make a lasting impact on Los Angeles.

The other way of looking at this is the mural was used to promote the album. Whether or not it mentions the album or the band, they used it for promotional purposes and it is, at the end of the day, the album cover. It implicitly is connected to Supermodel and could be considered an advertisement.

So do you think this is art? Does a mural have to be specific to be considered an advertisement? Or does promotional use and implicit connections make it an oversized billboard?


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