If you have been in a trendy part of town, in any town, you have seen it. A line of people waiting for their turn to get that iconic Insta shot in front of a dramatically flapping set of angel’s wings. When you saw it you likely immediately fell into one of two camps: the “how pathetic that they are trying to pass this consumerized idea off as art” camp or the “hold my backpack I need to get in line and figure out which filter is gonna make this shot pop” one (87% of the time it is Gingham).
These two philosophies seem to be diametric opposites to each other. The difference is the answer to whether or not an obvious self promotional pandering can be seen as art or not. But the reality is that there is a lot of space in the middle. Art, like everything these days it seems, comes in a spectrum.
The real estate industry is responsible for much of the way the built world around us looks. We choose the shapes, colors, textures and designs of the buildings we represent. These monuments to human existence have important purposes, to be comfortable places to live, productive places to work and entertaining places to spend our time and money. But while buildings are tools, built to serve a specific purpose, and huge financial investments, built only because of the promise of future returns, they are also one of the most important stimulants of emotion and are therefore themselves works of art.
Designing something that is considered art is hard. Art is subjective, irrational and fickle. Art requires a thoughtfulness of design that only comes from an immense amount of time and energy staring into the abyss of infinite possibilities. Art is also costly. The soulless cubic buildings created by dictators and regimes committed to cost-effective efficiency are a semi-permanent testament to the folly of optimizing function without consideration for form.
Capitalism, in its crudest iterations, can be as callous as any despot. The flywheel of creative output that it creates can become nothing but self-promotional visual placification. But it doesn’t have to be. Advertising, done correctly, is an art in its own right. Art’s power is its ability to conjure emotions and any seasoned marketer will tell you that emotion trumps logic when it comes to the majority of purchase decisions. When examined through this lens, economic incentivization can be one of the greatest patrons of the arts, giving the power of artistic determination to the masses rather than the privileged few.
So maybe we should reconsider our binary paradigm of wings painted on buildings. They can be contrived, derivative designs that have little more value than a short diversion and an uninspired social media post, sure. But they can also have an artistic twist, something that can inspire emotions as well as any artful illustration. There is an undeniable market for them. They are an example of the democratic nature of advertorial art in action.
The reason that I am so interested in this intersection between art and advertising, creativity and commerce, is that we have attempted to do something similar here at Propmodo. We are, above all, a trade publication. We exist only because our sponsors see value in the way that we can promote their companies. But we also like to think of ourselves as artists. We want to create stories that provide insights and evoke emotions that hopefully inform and inspire our audience, the chosen few who make the decisions that sculpt the built world, to do their jobs better. Our audience is, after all, creating the future of our cities and towns. Who better to inspire and be inspired by? We think that there are a lot of important stories that deserve to be told and we want to be the ones to make art out of them in a way not being done elsewhere.
A publication, like an art gallery, is only as good as its tastes. We aim to keep our bar high when it comes to business journalism, promoting ideas in a way that benefits the reader as much as the subject. We want to give our buildings wings, as long as we are able to put our own twist on it.