OOH brings fine art to the streets“Advertising is the greatest art form of the 20th century”. So claimed philosopher and media theorist Marshall McLuhan, commenting on the burgeoning consumer culture of post-war America and advertising’s central role within this.
Art has long been used in advertising, and advertising has often been the subject of artistic production – Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup being a prime example.
Despite this, some argue that advertising can never be art. Jillian Steinhauer of art news publication Hyperallergic, claimed that “art is ambiguity, nuance. Advertising can only be subtle up until a point because there's a need to get a message across… advertising wants to be like art, but it can never open up that space for questioning and confusion the way that good art does because then it would be bad advertising.”
But whatever the relationship between art and advertising, it extends further than the creative. While an image or film used in an advert can at the very least come close to being regarded as a work of art, out-of-home advertising (OOH) has frequently been used as an outdoor display for works of art.
And what better medium could there be for publicly showcasing art than OOH? As Edward Boches, Professor of Advertising at Boston University commented to the Pacific Standard magazine, OOH is “one of the only public and shared experiences remaining. Given the fragmentation of media (digital, social, on-demand TV), there are few opportunities remaining where we see something at the same time we know others are seeing it.”
Below we explore some of our favourite art-based campaigns, where OOH brings fine art to the streets.
Now in its fourth year, the British Journal of Photography celebrates Britain’s multifaceted identity with an enormous public exhibition of contemporary portrait photography throughout the country in celebration of multiculturalism and diversity.
portrait of britain
Thousands of portraits were submitted to Portrait of Britain, of which 200 were shortlisted. These were whittled down further to 100 winners, which JCDecaux UK displayed on digital screens across the country. The exhibition, seen by over 10 million people each year, includes portraits of well-known figures as well as more ordinary, less commonly-celebrated people.
Simon Bainbridge, editor of the British Journal of Photography, commented that “Portrait of Britain is public art on a huge scale – a countrywide exhibition that puts the nation’s citizens centre stage in bustling public spaces… Taken from all walks of life, these subjects share the same space, looking back at the public from the screen. The effect is a lingering glance, and witnessed by millions of passers-by.”
In 2018, Chinese artist Ai WeiWei displayed his work “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors”, devoted to the global migrant crisis on JCDecaux bus shelters and newsstands in New York City. The exhibition featured 98 documentary images taken by the artist himself at refugee camps.
good fences make good neighbours
The Public Art Fund, which helped organise the initiative, commented that “the works will grow out of the existing urban infrastructure, using the fabric of the city as its base and drawing attention to the role of the fence in dividing people. In doing so, the artist highlights how this form, ubiquitous yet also potent, can alter how we perceive and relate to our environment.”
French photographer Dominique Issermann displayed pictures on the theme of travel at Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport in late 2016. The artist exhibited the photos simultaneously on the JCDecaux digital screens at the airport, displaying them between video advertising campaigns and coordinating the photographs to match perfectly with the video loop.
For the past eleven years, JCDecaux Guatemala has worked with the local Fundación Rozas-Botrán to turn the capital, Guatemala City, into an open-air art gallery, in an initiative called Arte en la Calle (Art in the Street).
arte en la calle
Based on the theme of “water's presence on Earth”, the project displayed many works by local and international artists on free-standing advertising panels throughout Guatemala City. Arte en la Calle took place for the first time in 2008.
Established in 2016 and co-run annually with the Contemporary Arts Centre of Vilnius, the JCDecaux Award represents a great opportunity for young Lithuanian artists to present themselves to audiences nationwide.
JCDecaux Award for young artists
The winning artist, whose work is evaluated by independent curators, receives an award worth €4000 and the chance to showcase the artwork publicly on JCDecaux furniture nationwide for one month. The piece of art then goes on display at the Contemporary Arts Centre in Vilnius.
The most recent winning artwork, the unique installation "The Pulse" by Matas Janušonis, symbolically captures a city‘s heartbeat. Equipped with sound sensors, it detects nearby movements such as people talking, clapping, and buses passing by. The artwork records surrounding movements in real-time, drawing them on a white canvas.
Through this installation, young artist Matas Janušonis sees the city as a museum, with human life being its main masterpiece.
JCDecaux partnered with the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, one of the most respected art institutions in the country, to challenge students to design a piece of art on the theme "Paris and Parisians" - a love letter to the capital.
"Paris and Parisians" - as seen by Fine Art students
The latest winning artworks - by Juliette Green, Nastassia Kotava, Domitille Siergé and Gabrielle Simonpietri - gave life to a large urban exhibition of 200 posters on nearly 70 street furniture columns around the city for one month.
The Parisian advertising columns, known as "Morris columns", have been in the city since 1868 and are an iconic part of the visual heritage of Paris. Over generations, they‘ve displayed some of the greatest posters of the twentieth century.
The initiative is a continuation of JCDecaux‘s historic commitment to support culture and make art accessible to all.