Victoria Beckham X Sotheby’s - The Art of the Unexpected
The Victoria Beckham X Old Masters collaboration is a fantastic example of what we call the Art Flow, an increasingly free flux between traditionally ‘High Art’ and contemporary culture.
Everyday we see the fortress of the previously elite art world opening up, the result of which is an inspirational new world where emotion and meaning flows into our commercially-driven visual environment.
Let’s take a close look at Victoria Beckham’s collaboration with the Sotheby’s June Old Masters sale.
Does this win the prize for most unexpected marketing juxtaposition of the year? Victoria Beckham, former Spice Girl and now indisputable fashion power-house, alongside Renaissance masterpieces by Rubens or Lucas Cranach. This is a masterful coup de théâtre by the Sotheby’s Old Masters team - or was it the marketing department?
In a statement, Andrew Fletcher, Head of Sotheby’s Old Masters Paintings noted, “In general, I think the success of the sale is probably down to the quality of the material combined with the publicity in the lead-up to it.” And in this case the publicity involved having a selection of works from their sale exhibited in Victoria Beckham’s flagship London store.
In a short promotional video, with all the verve of a catwalk show, Victoria Beckham professes her passion for art. Indeed, she has been integrating her passion for contemporary art in her London space over the last few years - 'I have been able to use the store to collaborate with some amazing artists. From Martin Creed... to Eddie Peake’s Courgettes and Emily Young’s sculpted works... it has been a privilege to be able to share my passion for art with my customers.'
Old Masters as a category is small compared to Modern and Contemporary Art which naturally attracts wealthy collectors looking to hang works that reflect their status and fit into their ultra-modern apartments. By collaborating with Victoria Beckham, one of the foremost contemporary taste-makers, in her pristine white-walled store, Sotheby’s is operating a significant game-change in the ‘branding’ of Old Masters art.
This is timely in the wake of the worldwide interest generated by the sale of Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi to a Saudi Prince in 2017 for a mind-melting $450million.
According to Artnews, Sotheby’s ‘estimated that its celebrity-driven marketing campaign attracted over 7,000 visitors to its galleries in just five days—double the usual number.’* The works that were hung in Beckham’s boutique sold over their estimates, notably her ‘favourite’ work by Peter Paul Rubens, Portrait of a Venetian Nobleman (circa 1620). The latter sold for $5.4million, surpassing the £3-4 million estimate and setting a world record for a portrait by the artist.
Clearly Sotheby’s wasn’t the only one to benefit from this partnership. Victoria Beckham was able to garner a unique and prestigious partnership with a major cultural brand - and associate her label with a flavour for cultural heritage and connoisseurship. Her store no doubt benefited from increased footfall from well-to-do art collectors and curious members of the public alike. Not to mention the international press interest.
And gosh darn it, I love it. Why not expand the appeal of Old Masters masterpieces which routinely sell for the same price as a contemporary artist barely out of art school? If it means reviving interest in works of exceptional cultural heritage then everyone is to benefit. I say let’s see more Old Masters in ultra-contemporary settings.
The strength of this campaign is in its simplicity. It is ultimately pure marketing, but elegantly and subtly achieved.