Big Ideas from a Small World

MoMA fallsout with Happy Corp.

Posted in Method to the Madness by Ryan Thomas on March 3, 2009
What could go wrong?

What could go wrong?

I wonder what went on in the boardroom when this all went down. I had the privilege of attending the Art Directors Club when Paul Lavoie handed the reigns over to Doug Jaeger during Advertising Week. Doug seemed like a man as passionate about art as he was about advertising.

Until today I did not even know Happy Corp. had the MoMA account but it really seems like a perfect agency/client match. On the surface even the strategy behind this work seems sound.

It’s hard to argue that the most buzz surrounding art in today’s culture has been from graffiti artists – Banskey and the Wooster Collective have almost become household names.  Taking art to public places has been a full-blown movement in recent years and has even spawned some really great graffiti like advertising such as Dentsu Canada’s Vespa work.

I don’t know what went wrong, but listen to the language of the MoMA representative Kim Mitchell:

“No one at The Museum of Modern Art had any role in or prior knowledge of the acts of vandalism committed against posters in the Museum’s installation in the Atlantic Avenue subway station. On February 27 we ended all work to be done by Doug Jaeger and thehappycorpglobal on this project and all others, and have completely severed our relationship with the company. The Museum deplores any kind of vandalism and is profoundly distressed that the posters were defaced.”

That’s not the kind of corporate language you use lightly. Something here went really wrong and I doubt it was just one act or one defaced poster. Which is a shame, because outreaching to those bright young artists who see a gallery as the enemy would have gone a long way towards fostering the art community for years to come.

Poster Boy at work creating press for the MoMA - if only they had been warned.

Poster Boy at work creating press for the MoMA - if only they had been warned.

Those are some harsh words when only two weeks earlier The Happy Corp posted a blog entry praising the project and how glad they were to be on board:

Blogs are abound with praise for the installation including: Creavity-Online, Gothamist, The New York Times and TED blog have had some great things to says about MoMA’s current initiative. We’ve been to the station and couldn’t be more pleased to report the way this project has transformed the usually less than stimulating subterranean environment into a much happier place where commuters are literally stopping in their hurried tracks to get a little art on.

MoMA definitely hit a home run with this installation and we are thrilled that we had the chance to help out. Take the subway to Brooklyn, check out some art!

Moving forward I guess we’ll just say “all the best” to both the MoMA and Happy Corp in all their future relationships – and just call this one a learning experience.

*UPDATE*

The vandalized now repaired art can be seen here, and New York Magazine has a quote from CBS’s outdoor rep:

“As far as we’re concerned, the Happy Corp is MoMA’s agent and has been throughout this entire process, so to detach them now at the eleventh hour when something kind of funky happens is not an assumption that I would make,” says Jodi Senese, CBS Outdoor’s executive vice-president of marketing.”

More drama to come I’m sure. Who knew that when things go south people start talking about modern art? My bets are on Doug.

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  1. […] bounds month”. Posted in Too Close To Call by Ryan Thomas on March 6th, 2009 First Happy Corp. incurs the wrath of MoMA, bloggers and the graffiti community in one poster-boy […]


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