Sunday, December 1, 2013

Where is the Arts "Neiman Marcus" Christmas Catalog

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on...................."

Thanksgiving is over.  Black Friday is over.  Now the Christmas madness starts in earnest.  Every year high end retailer Neiman Marcus publishes their Christmas Catalog - which includes fantasy gifts (their designation, not mine) - over the top extravagant indulgences that in a rational world would embarrass even the super rich.  But with the wealthy getting wealthier all across the planet, they have to have to spend their money on something - preferably something that will set them apart (if only in their own minds) that they are indeed "special."

Retailers are on the bandwagon that customers want "experiences", so this year's fantasy items include a couple of "experiences" (again their designation) - including an overnight stay in a Glass House owned by architect and art patron Philip Johnson.  A veritable "steal" at $30,000 (and all of the proceeds go to the National Trust for Historic Preservation).  There is also a $20,000 Jeff Koons art piece (one of a multiple run).  Another "experience" involves your purchase of a 25 carat diamond (I guess the bling itself simply isn't enough to satisfy the "experience", so according to the N/M Catalog:
"This once-in-a-lifetime adventure starts with a trip to the De Beers headquarters in London. Once there, you'll receive your exceptional diamond in its rough and uncut form, name your diamond, learn about the unique inscription it will receive, and meet the master craftsman who will hand-cut and polish it to perfection. 
A private tour of The Crown Jewels and dinner with De Beers CEO Philippe Mellier and Forevermark CEO Stephen Lussier in the Tower of London follow. Your journey continues on a vessel off Namibia's coast, where your diamond was discovered deep within the ocean floor. You'll then explore rough-diamond sorting houses and a children's community project, where the local population benefits from Forevermark's responsible sourcing of diamonds.
Upon returning to the United States, you'll meet with New York jewelry designer Maria Canale to design the ring that will exhibit your exceptional diamond.
This "experience" will set you back a cool $1,850,000 (with $10,000 going to The Heart of N/M Foundation).  I don't own any diamonds, so I can't really speak to the potential transformative nature that dinner with the CEO of De Beers might offer me.

I don't fault Neiman Marcus for ballyhooing what amounts to a kind of shameful excess given the plight of hundreds of millions of people around the world. This really isn't about the featured items for sale anyway.  This is about marketing.  I wonder how many of these big ticket items over the years go unsold.  This is about promoting the Neiman Marcus brand as high end, and this catalog has been tremendously successful in doing just that over the years.  It makes the news, gets television exposure, people talk about it (some people anyway), and it fits nicely with positioning N/M as a high end retailer.  Kudos to them for what (at least once) was a new, creative marketing approach.

I wonder though why real arts experiences aren't featured.  How about one of our major choreographers will name a new piece after a purchaser, and that lucky buyer will get to see the piece unfold from conception, to rehearsal, to debut performance - with lots of perks of involvement along the way.  One million dollars.  Or how about one of our conductors will take you step by step through the visioning and end performance of a new work (and perhaps even let you take a turn at conducting one of the final rehearsals).  One million dollars.  Or one of our museums will offer you and 50 of your best friends a sit down dinner and private curated tour of a big exhibition.  One million dollars.  Those would all be enviable experiences.

Or how about this ego feeder: for a measly one million dollars you can take "selfles" of you with major artists in a variety of our disciplines - composers, conductors, musicians, visual artists, poets, writers, film makers, playwrights.  Then you can post them on a social network to amaze your friends.

I'd like to see "experiences" like those in the N/M Christmas Catalog.

Or better yet, I would like to see the Arts have their own Christmas Catalog with some fantasy gift offerings like the above, but with maybe a hundred pages of real art and art performances from artists and arts organizations from across the country.  Real experiences:  From involvement with undiscovered rising dance companies to experimental theater groups; from innovative young artists pushing the boundaries in the social justice field, to the full diversity of new poets; from hip hop artists to classical musicians. Artists that could feed your mind and soul about how they create - sharing with you some of the process. There are doubtless a thousand times more exceptional experiences we could offer than even the thickest catalog could do justice to.

And even if (as I suspect with the N/M Catalog) many, if not all, these fantasy offerings went unsold, it would still garner us some much needed media hype, public buzz and maybe even honest interest in all the art that is out there.  Promote our brand, giving some inkling of the kind of experiences we offer.  I gotta think a lot of the experiences (with artist interfaces) that we might offer would find buyers.  Maybe lots of buyers.

I envision a Whole Earth Catalog (too young to remember it - Google it) of Arts Experiences going on every day in America.  Changing all the time, and changing the world as they unfold.

A different kind of bling.

Have a great week.

Don't Quit

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