Annals of Advertising: Gap’s new Art Chic

Over the years the Gap has been genius marketing tee shirts. Photographers like Herb Ritts and Annie Leibovitz shot brilliantly graphic black-and-white campaigns showing just the right people wearing the white tees—those people being cool actors and musicians, and especially artists. In fact, it seems to me that the Gap (along with Absolut vodka and some others) really helped usher in the era of artist-as-fashion icon. Lately the Gap has faltered a bit, but now in its newest campaign the company

Over the years the Gap has been genius marketing tee shirts. Photographers like Herb Ritts and Annie Leibovitz shot brilliantly graphic black-and-white campaigns showing just the right people wearing the white tees—those people being cool actors and musicians, and especially artists. In fact, it seems to me that the Gap (along with Absolut vodka and some others) really helped usher in the era of artist-as-fashion icon.
Lately the Gap has faltered a bit, but now in its newest campaign the company has recaptured its art-world glory. Now the marketing involves not just individual artists, but an entire museum. The new campaign focuses on artists whose work has appeared in the Whitney Museum of American Art's biennial show. The artist appears in the black-and-white ads, wearing a Gap Artist Edition tee shirt that he or she designed. Chuck Close (above right) appears in one of the ads, for instance. In other ads, art collectors wear tee-shirts designed by their favorite artists—for instance, model Stephanie Seymour wears a Jeff Koons shirt. (I'm not a big Koons fan, but that shirt looks really good on her.) In another ad, model Shalom Harlow wears a Barbara Kruger-designed shirt. (That's the one I'll be buying.)—David Schonauer