The other day, I was strolling through the alcohol section of Safeway (purely by chance, mind you) when I stumbled upon a display for Absolut Vodka. But it wasn't your average display. Each bottle was adorned with artwork by one Andy Warhol.
"Andy Warhol's art on vodka bottles?" I asked. "What's next—Allen Ginsberg's image in a Gap ad?" (Note: Ginsberg gave the proceeds to charity.) But there it was. Warhol was asked to create artwork for Absolut way back in 1986 and he obliged, and now it's back on display in liquor stores and supermarkets across the country.
It's all part of the brand's Absolut Art Collection. Subsequent participating artists include Keith Haring (at Warhol's recommendation), photographer David Levinthal, and many, many others.
Absolut supports the arts in other ways as well, most notably through its Absolut Art Award. Founded in 2009 and issued every two years, Absolut recently announced 2015's winners.
The first is California-born Frances Stark, who won the award in the category of "Art Work." Stark will receive a $30,500 stipend as well as very generous $152,600 for the creation of a new work. Stark’s proposed new project is a "pedagogical opera, in which music and education are mixed to tell a recent history of America," according to the jury’s citation.
Stark was among 37 nominees from across five continents and 24 countries, including emerging hubs such as Iran, Mexico and Ghana, in the "Art Work" category. Ranging in age from 30 to 69, nominees included "widely recognized names, as well as more emerging artists."
The second winner is Mark Godfrey, in the category of "Art Writing." Godfrey will receive the same stipend as Stark, plus $38,150 to go toward a new publication with an eminent publishing house. Godfrey’s intended publication is an "anthology dedicated to 'The Black Art Debate' and African-American art in the 1960s and 70s," according to the jury.
Ten art writers were nominated in this category. According to Absolut, the "Art Writing" prize continues its "longstanding support of the development of critical theory and nurturing artistic discourse." I found this particularly interesting because the not-so-glamorous field of the arts frequently resembles, well, a dying art.
Now I know what you're wondering. Who is the other big player in the field of art writing philanthropy? Why that would be... wait for it... the Andy Warhol Foundation.
What are the odds?