When was the last time you discovered something truly new? A new item of clothing buried at the back of the rack, perhaps, or a new design that blew you away? Something original that inspired you – that made you feel something – encouraging you to want to know more, do more and understand more.
The reason we get such a thrill from the undiscovered is because we are naturally curious creatures. We would still be using horses for transport and living by candlelight if no one had ever asked ‘I wonder what would happen if…?’
Luckily for us, we are armed with more tools than ever before to feed this curiosity.
However we’re unsatisfied.
Far from feeling a lack of the new, we are now oversaturated with it: information, ideas, images. It feels like more and more brands are vying for our attention, yet at the same time everything has been ‘done’.
The consumer now goes on the internet and can look up everything and anything. We’re more likely to be introduced to a new brand via marketing in our feed than we are to discover one in real life or be recommended one by a friend. We just hit a button and there it is.
But this leaves us with a disconnect. Gone are the days where you knew the ‘person’ selling you your product. When you could have a chat, build a relationship, friendship. When your tailor would know you and your measurements. When the butcher would have the perfect cut of meat ready for you and would ask how your aunty Doris is.
Now we get our groceries online. We have big brands, call centres and conglomerates to answer to. Not a local amenity with a real-life person attached. What we gained in technology, we’re now lacking in community and engagement. For that reason our brains have very quickly been trained to flick through information. It’s made us impatient. Reading a full article seems like a chore (sorry).
The problem with this is that it’s difficult for something to have a lasting effect on us. It’s difficult for us to separate what’s truly new with what’s being fed to us, because we’ve forgotten how to be curious.
Take location-based memories, for instance. Can you remember what you saw on Instagram yesterday? No, neither can I. Can you remember that exhibition you went to four years ago? Probably. You know where it was, who you were with and probably what the weather was like that day. Not to mention your thoughts on the work itself.
As Mario Livio, an astrophysicist and author, writes about curiosity and its evolutionary purpose. “People had to be curious about what was happening around them or they wouldn’t survive.” He goes onto point out that these days the internet is, of course, fantastic for this and relieves us of a specific type of curiosity. However scientific research or big artistic projects generally deal with questions for which humanity has not yet found an answer. We can’t just Google it. It won’t just creep into our social feeds.
That’s why artist and brand collaborations are one way in which I see this rediscovery of curiosity accelerating moving forward. Artists and brands – together – can engage new audiences by surprising and delighting them with something unexpected.
Take the recent collaboration between with the Van Gogh Museum and Vans: post-Impressionist painting meets skatewear. Adriaan Dönszelmann, Managing Director of the Van Gogh Museum, explains that this “ties in with our mission to make the life and work of Vincent van Gogh accessible to as many people as possible in order to enrich and inspire them. By uniting Van Gogh’s iconic artworks with iconic Vans styles, our partnership brings Vincent’s art “Off The Wall” and into the world to a new audience outside the museum.”
Or how about when Anthony Burrill worked with Hermès last year to launch their men’s collection, DWNTWNMEN. He created wall paintings, screen print posters and animations, which added an unanticipated element to the launch, bringing it to people’s attention.
Both these examples successfully show how commerce paired with creativity can draw in new audiences and cross-pollinate the artists’ world and followers into the brands. Vans used its product to connect with a new audience of art lovers, who may have not know or thought of Vans before, while the Van Gogh Museum will gain exposure to a younger client base. With experiential work, like the Hermès and Anthony Burrill event, the audience felt included and excited by the discovery of something unique. Equally, the brand builds more loyalty with their customers and engages with new ones.
The worlds of brands and art colliding – much like that of technology and curiosity – shows that art has the power to not only create, but also elevate a brand, change people’s perceptions and, ultimately, reignite the curiosity of the consumer.