Some thoughts on street artists who also sell T-shirts, listed with numbers in front to feign intellectual rigor:
1.) I don’t think there’s anything wrong with making money from making art. A girl’s got to eat, and she might as well make bread from doing something she enjoys.
2.) With street-art campaigns, the medium is definitely part of the message. Street art, especially the poster and sticker variety, intentionally operates in the same space as advertising.
3.) It’s just that with street art, the campaign is generally considered to be advertising on behalf of itself, rather than on behalf of razor blades, or mp3 players, or eco-friendly cars, or cigarettes, or whatever.
4.) Unless the artist sells T-shirts with the same imagery as the posters. Then suddenly the art is no longer just advertising on behalf of itself. It’s pimping a product. An artistic, creative product, but a product nonetheless.
5.) This line of thinking could also apply to those who paste posters around town and then sell signed versions of those same posters, but in that case what is sold is the advertisement, a replication of the same.
6.) The same goes for artists who achieve notoriety from street art and then use that fame to secure gallery shows. The street campaign becomes an advertisement for the artist’s other works, but those other works generally fit into the established commodification of aesthetics.
7.) T-shirts are different. The branding on them can also be considered a furtherance of the street campaign, but they are often considered a consumable commodity, full stop. Not to mention that clothing companies, such as Billabong and Vans, often use poster and sticker campaigns to advertise their products.
8.) My question: How long does a poster or sticker campaign have to go before the artist is allowed to sell T-shirts and not have the initial campaign completely devolve into advertising? If the posters and T-shirts are made available at the same time, the guerrilla campaign just becomes guerrilla advertising. But if the street sees the imagery a decent amount of time before boutique shoppers do, then we have someone making bread from doing something she enjoys.
9.) All of this presupposes a difference between art and advertising, but the question remains: How long does a street artist have to wait to make money and maintain legitimacy? How long is not long enough?
10.) And one more question (see, I told you these numbers were all about feigning rigor): How much does intention matter? If an artist pastes things on the street and then later decides to branch out into T-shirts, how different is that from someone with a master plan to make a brand for the purpose of making money?