The place of classical artwork within the modern licensing space is one that has been called into question over recent months with arguments for and against hitting hard and landing blows on either side of the fence.
Artist Grayson Perry once famously labelled the Tate Modern’s gift shop the Tat Moderne, a humorous yet disingenuous jibe at the museum’s biggest source of revenue, considering the artist himself has a collection of silk scarves retailing at £85 a pop within it.
Over in France, towards the end of the last decade, Pablo Picasso’s iconic signature was licensed to the French car maker Citroen, following a lengthy courtroom battle among the artist’s heirs, who collaboratively make up The Succession Picasso.
The move was a defining moment in the commercialisation of an artist’s brand, and was one labelled as ‘pivotal’ by Claude Ruiz Picasso, the eldest son of the artist Pablo, in placing the stake in the ground for regulating the use of the Spanish artist’s brand, name or works, however controversial it was.
At the same time, in Mexico, the artist Frida Kahlo has long been not only the face of feminism in the South American region, but many a tequila bottle, trinket or tea towel, as well as the subject of some heated familial court battles for the rights to the artist since her death.
When it comes to the work, name or even the image of such iconic figures of the cultural scene, there certainly is money to be made.
But the big question is, should artwork - considered masterpieces - even have a place within the modern day licensing industry? When considering that those today making the most noise in the space (the Tate Modern or The V&A Museum for example) do so in order to fund art collections, museums, cultural and historical heritage, the answer from many is yes.
Those on the receiving end of little to no government funding are thus left to drive revenue for themselves, be that through tourism or the inevitable gift shop. All the while, consumer products and licensing has become an integral part to sharing artwork, growing a global audience and ultimately funding an ability to continue to share such works of art with the world.
TRT World, the global news, features, art and culture channel put the question to Licensing.biz earlier this week. And here’s what we had to say on the matter.