Absolut is one of the few brands that boasts a long history of partnerships with prominent artists—dating back before such enterprises were fashionable. The company is now in its 30th year of creative collaborations—beginning with Andy Warhol’s vision of a silk screened Absolut bottle in 1985—and is now bringing all its art under one roof at the Historical Museum of Wine and Spirits in Stockholm.
In this age of shared brand equity, where mixing art and commerce can appear soul-less, Absolut still maintains a “commitment to creativity,” according to Anna Malmhake, the company’s vice president of global marketing. And with three decades to show for itself, no one can challenge Absolut’s unrivaled power. Sylvie Fleury, David Shrigley, Hung Tung-Lu and Dan Wolgers were a few of the artists who all traveled to Stockholm last week to help celebrate the exhibit’s landmark opening. “The collaboration gives coverage to not necessarily well-known artists,” explains Fleury, noting that her association came about because “[Absolut] wanted to be part of an iconic project like the Kelly bag and Nike shoes that I did.” In addition to the great exposure, Malmhake also notes that “there’s no interference”—in other words, once the brand decides to work with an artist, the finished product is solely up to the designated designer.
Among the works on display, it was particularly hard not to notice Wolgers’ witty image of the bottle stuck on a rack (the original sculpture was also on hand). Keith Haring’s ghostly, hollowed out figures storming the iconic vessel in a cloud of canary yellow and works from Jean Michel Basquiat, Helmut Newton, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Kenny Scharf and Louise Bourgeois were just a few of the hundreds of other artists whose clever reinterpretations of the Absolut bottle over the years help to comprise the archive.
Despite selling the company to Pernod Ricard last year, the Swedish government has shrewdly retained ownership of this vast art collection and has established an artistic prize to go with it. The winner of the first Absolut Art Award was Israeli-born, Berlin-based artist Keren Cytter, who received a €15,000 prize and will see her work at the new museum set to open at Djurgarden in Stockholm at the beginning of 2012. Meanwhile, the brand also announced film director Spike Jonze as their latest collaborator. Suffice to say, Absolut’s artistic horizon now looks brighter than ever.