RetroProgressive – Art re-packaged as classy shopping

In July, David Cameron gave Barack Obama a £2500 painting by Ben Eine in an art swap. Apparently, Samantha Cameron heard about Ben through her friend Anya Hindmarch, and became a fan of his work – even though Eine is only the fifth best-selling artist at Brighton based Art Republic Gallery.

Eine specialises in producing huge letters on shop fronts across London, some single letters, others “wry combinations serving as a reminder that writing is art.”  But I’m reading a different message, that now ‘art is shopping’.  It’s recently been said that “Eine is doing for letters of the alphabet what Banksy did for rats and smiley Policemen.” If you’re interested, you can probably still buy a limited edition graphic painting the same as the President’s, albeit in slightly different colours for £2500…

I wonder if The President took a look at Eine’s curiously colourful website before the swap took place, to give this artwork the once over, prior to honouring the gift with his official approval?

The information about us stored by search engines, social networking spaces and e-commerce websites continues to grow. And, as online advertising and promotion becomes more targeted, we’re increasingly being told what it is we want – based on previous purchases being an indication of our taste. Some websites use wish lists that can be sent to friends to help them buy appropriate gifts. I suppose this works in much the same way as a wedding list.

However, rather than using the net, on this occasion, it seems David Cameron relied on the advice of his wife and her friend – and, since they both work in retail (luxury stationery and handbags respectively) – he felt they’d be well qualified to suggest an appropriately arty gift for President Obama…

It strikes me as rather ironic that whilst the chattering classes are queuing up for their piece of branded ‘luxury’ designer art in the form of one of Ms Hindmarch’s art daubed handbags, the ruling classes are turning to Shoreditch street artists for a bit of ‘authentic’ East End graffiti. In any case, neither product is entirely unique, though you can guarantee it will still be overpriced.

Anyway, it seems like eveyone’s shopping for art these days… Apart from Charles Saatchi’s ex-wife, Kay. She no longer buys art, but has become a curator. Probably rather a clever move in this market?

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About Author Profile: Susan Muncey

Trend consultant Susan Muncey, is Editor of Visuology Magazine. In 2008, she founded online curiosity shop, She writes on style and trends for several blogs, including, and The Dabbler. She previously owned cult West London boutique, Fashion Gallery, one of the first concept stores in the world. Susan graduated in geography from Cambridge University and is also an Associate Member of the CFA Institute. She lives in London with her husband.

5 thoughts on “RetroProgressive – Art re-packaged as classy shopping

    October 16, 2010 at 09:51

    Eine emperor’s clothes are, I suspect, an illusion and not an especially grande one. So, we, the taxpaying we, coughed up two and a half grand for a picture of a shopping bag with playschool letting which was given to a bloke from Washington DC who shortly may be unemployed.

    Is that a violin I hear playing and do I smell burning.

    October 16, 2010 at 10:54

    No objection would be forthcoming if this had been Sam’s choice.

    October 16, 2010 at 12:40

    Malty, apologies if I’ve misled you, but the bag shown here is actually one by Anya Hindmarch – featuring the work of Mr Eine (great as a matching gift for Mrs Obama).

    Yes, dead dogs are obviously up there with other classy shopping-art, along with sharks and cows in formaldehyde..

  4. Worm
    October 17, 2010 at 19:08

    When I see ‘street art’ being sold as editions and prints for hundreds of pounds, I think ‘now there’s a real waste of money’

    October 17, 2010 at 19:31

    I wonder if this is a case of “Danger – Hipsters At Work”. Their genius seems to be neither repackaging shopping as art nor art as shopping but, simply, repackaging shopping as shopping with the prices trebled along the way by amazing sleight of hand. It doesn’t sound trebles all round for the artist, however, because according to Wikipedia he can’t afford to live in Hackney or Shoreditch. Oh well, Obama gave the last prime minister to visit him a of a boxed DVD set of classic movies so I guess this time he got shopping in return.

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