If Disney and can wake-up and smell the coffee when it comes to redefining today’s contemporary art by bringing in top street and graffiti artists to give Mickey Mouse a make-over, then so too will the rest of the world in a very short time. Such was the exhibition which opened during the downtown LA Artwalk at the Gilmore Gallery on 4th and Spring Streets, November 13th to hundreds of fans. Basically, Disney has allowed the world’s most famous Mouse to be re-interpreted, updated, and delivered again as a modern-day badass in the form of Mickey on vinyl, Mickey as a graff-urban vinyl toy, Mickey in graffiti fonts painted on wood, canvases, metal, with attitude, silk-screened on T-shirts, and even soldered into metallic heavy rings by Han Cholo, stitched into fitted caps by New Era, or even on a limited-edition BMX cruiser crafted by the Nemesis Project.
The exhibition now answers (sort of) what all the hype was about during Agenda fashion trade show a couple of months ago when The Hundreds showcased a secret booth where they wouldn’t let anyone in, nor take pictures of the outside, even though it was clearly some sort of collaboration going on with Disney characters stamped all around the outside. The program by Disney is called Bloc28.com and it’s a new artist interpretation/experiment that Disney has created by bringing in top street and graffiti artists such as Mear One, Slick, Rime, Ewok, and others to recreate their interpretations of the icon. The items are then auctioned off in a series on eBay or sold within specialty boutiques. Overall, it is an interesting way for Disney to get contemporary and street-savvy fast, but it still rubs some people a little wrong. Conversations at the opening exhibition ran from, “this is so cool to see Mickey by Mear One” to others noting the irony of Disney consumerism with “Mickey for sale again.”
Overall however, it does show that street and graffiti artists are increasingly being used to redefine mainstream branding by those industries and companies needing major facelifts. The art in the show is definitely worth checking out and no doubt some of these pieces will be collectibles. But while to some, the iconography reinterpreted is cool, to others the campaign is still just Disney, a mega brand with loads of characters at their disposal and who appear to be trying to build cred within a new generation by jumping on the trend of using street and graffiti artists to make a sale.