The day I graduated from art school in New York I did two things.
I went to an exhibition at MOMA, called ‘The Machine At the End Of The Mechanical Age’.
And I went to Madison Square Garden to see a live broadcast of England lose to Brazil in The World Cup.
The art exhibit was the bigger surprise.
The Museum of Modern Art was the first serious art gallery to include design as art.
In fact they broadened the concept of art to include all forms of creativity.
They had a cast-iron Art Nouveau Metro entrance from Paris.
They had a hot-rod hearse.
Even the book of the exhibit, which I still have, had a metal cover and hinges.
They blasted the image of art galleries out of the dull, stuffy old world of palettes and oil paints.
This was art taken to several new dimensions.
One particular piece that blew me away was by Tinguely.
It was a massive, crudely built, working traction engine.
It was all on its own in a large room.
All over the floor were footballs.
The machine thumped and clanked, as a huge funnel moved back and forth like a begging hand.
Eventually someone would pick up a ball and throw it into the funnel.
The ball would go down the rusty metal tube, up a crude conveyor belt, down a metal slide, onto a rotating cam.
And the machine would throw it back onto the floor.
The effect was like a baby in a pram.
It cries for a toy, you give it the toy, it throws it out.
It was my first real, visceral experience of cognitive dissonance in art.
A massive industrial machine behaving like a small, naughty child.
I’ve loved Tinguely ever since.
Years later, I took my children for a weekend to Basel, just to see The Tinguely Museum.
Great art galleries, great art exhibits, can do that to you.
Open your eyes to another dimension.
Something you’d never suspect you’d even be vaguely interested in.
And suddenly, it hits you like a wave.
Before you know it, the feeling is very like falling in love.
All you can do is surrender to it.
When my children were little we took them to Paris.
I’ve always loved Paris, I feel more intelligent when I’m there.
Just the way I feel more daring when I’m in New York.
While we were walking around Paris we saw a sign saying Musee Picasso.
I’d never been a fan of Picasso.
But it was cold and raining, so we went inside.
The first few rooms of the gallery mainly featured painting by Goya, Manet, Lautrec, Gaugin, and Van Gogh.
Very nice paintings, but I didn’t see the point.
Then I realised these weren’t by any of those people, they were all by Picasso.
He did them when he was young and searching for his own style.
He copied everybody he admired, it was easy for him.
In fact it was so easy to copy, that became the problem.
The struggle was to find a style of his own.
As he grew older he copied Cezanne, then he copied Braque.
In 1907 he saw a show that changed everything.
It was the first time primitive art had been brought back to Europe.
A light went on in his head.
He saw that art doesn’t have to be about copying reality.
Reality can be the start point, not the finish point.
He put primitive art together with Cubism, and this became Synthetic Cubism.
Picasso’s own style: 1+1=3.
Suddenly the gallery came to life for me.
I got it.
I started to draw everything, so I’d understand it better.
I drew his cardboard guitar sculptures, from different angles.
His glasses of pastis and sugar cubes.
His heads made from boxes, plates, and buttons.
My wife took the children off somewhere and I spent the whole day there drawing.
Just like New York, what made the difference was the art gallery, and how they created the exhibition.
I’ve seen Picasso at other galleries, and not been moved at all.
That’s what makes MOMA and Musee Picasso different.
They don’t just exhibit the art.
They set up an experience that draws you in, carries you along, then interests you, then surprises, then amazes you.
They’ll show you things you’ve looked at before, but in a way you’ve never seen before.
So it will have real impact and power.
So it will change your opinion.
So you won’t think quite the same afterwards.
I think, in advertising, we can learn a lot from that.