In The Age Of Digital, Paper Must Needs Become Art


See that glossy, golden, glowing No. 5 ? I think I received it in the latest edition of American Vogue, slipped inside the covering plastic bag. But it’s possible the thing simply materialized, covet-provoking, in my mailbox. A worldwide phenomenon, apparently, as Tabitha over at Bourbon and Pearls got one too.

In case you were thinking this might be a modern redo of this museum piece, not quite. At least not overtly. It’s an ad for Chanel No. 5, the legendary perfume from the legendary couture house.

But how it’s not art I don’t know.

  • Provokes a sense of awe and wonder? Check.
  • Surprises and delights? Check.
  • Takes the viewer, if only for an instant, out of their world and time? Well, not to exaggerate, but I did gasp when I opened up the glossy wings and all the suspended logos and labels began, ever so gently, to vibrate.

I made a paltry iPhone video, which hints at the realized experience. (If YouTube has eaten my embedded link, which it seems to be doing, take a look here if you like.)

In a world where online photos are now almost as beautiful as prints, where video can make up for their lack of visual resolution with sound and movement, paper has to up its game. I believe paper, words and images both, will become to the digital what opera and live theater became to the movie, and what the movie then became to television.

Paper has to earn its place with dimensionality. Well all right then.

Very fetching, as my mother would say. But also purely beautiful. I’m happy to see Chanel’s designer, Mr. Lagerfeld, handing out art to all and sundry.

28 Comments

  • 12/06/11
    7:15 am

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    Lindsay said...

    I was so impressed with this ad! I propped it up on the coffee table for a few days to admire.

  • 12/06/11
    7:35 am

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    materfamilias said...

    I want one!
    And speaking of paper and dimensionality, have you followed the exquisitely mysterious trail of astonishingly intricate and wonderfully beautiful paper sculptures in Scotland libraries?

    12/06/11
    9:41 am
    Lee Rosenthall said...

    I was thinking the same thing! Here’s a link to a story about the mysterious sculptures: http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2011/11/29/142910393/the-library-phantom-returns

  • 12/06/11
    7:41 am

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    Karena said...

    I love unique and intriguing marketing! Bravo!! Of course Chanel #5 Perfume has a very special place in my heart!

    We are on our 5th day of Holiday Giveaways with 4 events being open! Vicki from French Essence has offered her duo of books to 2 winners!

    xoxo
    Karena
    Art by Karena

  • 12/06/11
    7:46 am

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    Jan said...

    I love your definition of art! I’m going to send it to Oldest Son, who will appreciate it and use it when people tell him visually beautiful video games don’t qualify as art.

  • 12/06/11
    8:05 am

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    hostessofthehumblebungalow said...

    I want one too!
    Not a subtle piece of art in this age of persuasion…

  • 12/06/11
    8:56 am

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    Mary anne said...

    Just beautiful. Now I want one too!

  • 12/06/11
    9:43 am

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    Lee Rosenthall said...

    Sounds like Chanel, like Tiffany, is trying to get something tangible–and beautiful–into the hands of their target market this season: http://www.luxurydaily.com/tiffany-co-sparks-gifting-giving-dreams-with-print-catalogs/

    Speaking of hands, apparently Chanel No. 5 is among the most pilfered items by the Shoplifting Set this holiday season. These common thieves have expensive tastes! http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/steal-136712

  • 12/06/11
    9:47 am

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    Alan B. said...

    A take off on Charles Demuth’s work?

    http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/49.59.1

  • 12/06/11
    9:49 am

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    Danielle said...

    I really like your theory about paper’s future. Beautifully worded.

  • 12/06/11
    10:12 am

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    Susan Tiner said...

    Prettiness! Thank you for the video, I saw that post and Bourbon and Pearls but couldn’t quite figure out what I was looking at. Now I see.

  • 12/06/11
    10:23 am

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    Shelley said...

    I haven’t bought a Vogue magazine, so I don’t have one of those. I would – prosaic soul that I am – call it an advert, not art. It has a purpose, to encourage one to purchase perfume if I understood you correctly. According to Oscar Wilde, ‘All art is quite useless’. (http://shelleyshouse.blogspot.com/2009/08/wildes-opinion-on-art.html)

    But this advert must be quite beautiful for you and Tabitha to both comment – even blog – about it.

  • 12/06/11
    10:28 am

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    déjà pseu said...

    That’s really something. How unexpected, and hence, delightful! Really lovely.

  • 12/06/11
    10:44 am

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    Jen said...

    That is a beautiful design. I hope that we don’t see the demise of paper anytime soon. While so much I do is online, I also enjoy leafing through a magazine, the crackling of a newspaper and the beauty of a bound book.

  • 12/06/11
    11:48 am

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    kathy said...

    Very mixed feelings about it. Yes, beautiful advertisement, but the ecological side of me wonders how many trees were cut down to make it? Something that will just get thrown out, after a few days or sooner. Hopefully can and will be recycled.
    Don’t mean to put a damper on everyone’s enthusiasm about it, but this was my first reaction to it, and it hasn’t changed.

  • 12/06/11
    11:53 am

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    WorthyStyle said...

    It must’ve been Vogue as I got one too! I had it on the coffee table and I loved it.

  • 12/06/11
    1:48 pm

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    Rachel said...

    I received one too, in my UK Tatler. Whilst I did like the way the little pieces caught the light on the elastics, I have to say, my first thought was “no wonder the perfume is so expensive, if this is the ad campaign it has to pay for” followed by “I wonder how many trees died…”. Your thoughts were much more interesting!

  • 12/06/11
    1:51 pm

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    Laura said...

    Being a collage artist, you’re preaching to my choir. Especially when paper is layered, there is a dimensionality in those faint shadow lines that is luminious when viewed in person. And that’s the rub–opera and theatre involve shoe leather, and so does art. You have to go to it, at least initially.

  • 12/06/11
    2:25 pm

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    Emmaleigh504 said...

    I haven’t opened this month’s Vogue yet, but will posthaste! This is a wonderfully artsy ad!

  • 12/06/11
    2:56 pm

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    Parnassus said...

    Many people who collect Victorian ads complain about the humdrum nature of modern ones, but here is proof that both artistry and quality still exist for those who take the pains to create or to seek it.
    –Road to Parnassus

  • 12/06/11
    6:01 pm

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    SeqingLibrarian said...

    As soon as I saw mine I started to wonder how I could frame it or otherwise keep and display it. It’s absolutely delightful! And, to take issue with other comments, I don’t see why trees, a renewable resource, shouldn’t be used to make something beautiful. (I haven’t figured out a frame yet)

  • 12/06/11
    10:53 pm

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    beautifuldreamer1066 said...

    When I opened the plastic wrapping of my Vogue, I was prepared to impatiently toss the extra adverts into the trash as I usually do. The sheer heft of this thing gave me pause and as I opened it, my eyebrows flew to the top of my forehead in suprised delight. I had never seen such a beautiful, intricately made piece of mass-produced advertisement in my life. I can’t throw it away; it’s just too precious, both in what it cost to produce and the delight it provides when I look at it. Brilliant marketing!

  • 12/07/11
    12:59 am

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    Faux Fuschia said...

    I hope to God my air freight copy, when it arrives in 2 months time has this!!

    Karl, you are VISIONARY!!!!!!

    Meanwhile I love the smell of Chanel no 5. It reminds me of lots of people I love x

  • 12/07/11
    4:41 pm

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    rb said...

    I got it too. I placed it up on the ledge where I place the Christmas cards that are starting to come in. Why not? Chanel sent me a Christmas card.

  • 12/08/11
    6:53 am

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    Javi said...

    oh my goodness, that is just BEAUTIFUL! My husband and I are graphic designers by trade and we live for everything print. Fantastic concept and delivery on their brand. I wonder if Chanel had this done inhouse or via an agency that they work with.

  • 12/11/11
    9:48 pm

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    Lisa said...

    Lindsay – I have it on my mantlepiece:).

    Mater – I saw those on your blog! Amazing.

    Karena – I think the ad is worthy of the perfume.

    Jan – Oh, video games will be seen as art soon enough.

    Hostess – The age of persuasion. Exactly.

    Mary Anne – I hope one found its way to you.

  • 12/11/11
    9:48 pm

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    Lee – Very interesting. Thanks for the link.

    Alan B. – I thought the exact thing.

    Danielle – Thank you very much. I feel freer to have theories now, for some reason.

    Susan – My pleasure. I felt like the video was the only way to show how it moved!

    Shelly – I always think back to my classes on Renaissance history. Much of what we call art now was commissioned by the wealthy to commemorate something or other. So no, not useless in its inception. But art has to transcend its commercial origins, I agree.

    Deja – Thank you!

  • 12/11/11
    9:48 pm

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    Jen – I agree.

    Kathy – I suppose I appreciate paper art, always have, so didn’t mind it.

    Worthy – :).

    Rachel – I think your thoughts are completely valid.

    Laura – There’s something about paper art that has always appealed to me – the dimensionality is a big part of it.

    Emmaleigh – Enjoy!

  • 12/11/11
    9:48 pm

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    Parnassus – That is so true. What an interesting perspective. Thank you.

    Librarian – So it’s a broadly shared reaction. Thank you. I haven’t read anything about it, I would love to see if someone’s written it up.

    Beautiful dreamer – Delight! Exactly the word for it.

    FF – I imagine Karl himself will bring it to your door, really, how could he not?

    rb – That’s a good way to look at it. Mine will live on the mantel for a while.

    Javi – Very nice to hear the expert perspective. I think I’ll hunt it up on the Internet and see if there’s any background out there.

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